Every time a UFC fighter decides to step into the Octagon they have many different things at risk. Health, money, roster position and a number of other “worries” must sit in the back of their mind when the door closes. Looking at UFC 158 it would be hard to argue that any fighter has more at risk than Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks and he’s not even competing for a title.
In four years of fighting in the Octagon, Hendricks has been very impressive to say the least. His 9-1 record is one of the best in the division as he’s defeated a number of fighters that have consistently been ranked amongst the top ten in Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann. In fact, he’s the only fighter not named Georges St. Pierre to hold wins over Koscheck and Fitch.
When he was overlooked for a title shot in favor of Nick Diaz, the MMA hardcore fan base was in an uproar. Instead, Hendricks was placed on the same card against Jake Ellenberger in what many presumed to be an insurance policy in case of any injuries or Diaz tom foolery. An injury to Rory MacDonald opened an opportunity to face Carlos Condit who is coming off a title shot against “Rush.” The apparent thought process was that defeating Condit would lock in a title shot for Hendricks. But, that risk is a huge one to take.
First, there isn’t any guarantee that the UFC match makers will give Hendricks the next shot. If Diaz was to win the fight in any fashion a rematch for Georges would be the logical step on the accord that he’s been a champion for so long and the potential financial opportunity for the company and the fighters would be hard to ignore.
Second, Condit is a very dangerous fighter that has played the spoiler more times than once. Hendricks does have big power in his punches, however in nearly 11 years of professional competition “The Natural Born Killer” has never been knocked out in any form or fashion. As he’s shown in his most recent run is that he’s improved by leaps and bounds across a number of categories. While Hendricks may be the betting favorite, seeing him winning this fight is not a long shot in any fashion.
Hendricks may be the consensus number one contender to St. Pierre’s lightweight title but he’s putting that on the line this weekend in the co-main event. While nothing is every truly promised in the UFC he’s taking a serious risk that will greatly affect his career, win or lose.