Pair of All-American and national champ wrestlers meet in Saturday’s co-main event
Johny Hendricks knows there might be a lot of reasons for his Saturday opponent to be extra motivated to knock him off.
For starters, Hendricks was a two-time Division I national champion wrestler at Oklahoma State, the mecca for collegiate wrestling. His opponent? He was just a one-time D-I champ at Edinburgh (Pa.) University. And a couple months ago, when the fight was announced, Hendricks went and called his opponent a "stepping stone" toward the welterweight title, which was met with just a little bit of resistance across the press conference dais.
And then there's the matter of Hendricks' last performance, which happened to be a 12-second knockout of his Saturday opponent's longtime friend and training partner, Jon Fitch – who was long regarded as the No. 2 welterweight in the sport until "Bigg Rigg" dropped him with a massive left hand to get ready to ring in the new year.
Yeah – Josh Koscheck has plenty of reasons to be motivated for his fight against Johny Hendricks. And Hendricks loves every bit of it.
"That's why I got into the division – to see if I have what it takes to compete with these guys," Hendricks said last week on a call with the media. "And that's what makes it so exciting, is every fight you don't know what's going to happen. All you can do is train your best and prepare your best and go out there and put on a good one and get your hand raised."
Koscheck has had a few choice words to say about Hendricks over the last couple months leading into their co-main event at UFC on Fox: Diaz vs. Miller, which takes place Saturday at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., and airs live nationally on the Fox network at 8 p.m. Eastern. He has implied that Hendricks' knockout of Fitch at UFC 141 in December was nothing more than one lucky punch. He's even gone as far as calling his opponent "fat boy." But Hendricks has taken it all in stride.
"I don't take anything personal," Hendricks said. "I'll be the first one to tell you I'm fat. I love McDonald's. I love Taco Bell. But whenever it comes fight time, I'm always ready. I've got 12 guys who I work out with every day that say worse things to me. That's just the nature of the beast, and that's what sells fights."
UFC president Dana White has come close to saying that a win for Hendricks could put him next in line for a shot at the welterweight title – but the division is in a bit of a standstill at the top of the mountain with champion Georges St-Pierre still rehabbing from ACL surgery, and interim champion Carlos Condit apparently content to wait out St-Pierre's return so they can fight to unify the belts. That fight, according to St-Pierre, could come in November at the earliest. And that might mean a lengthy wait for Hendricks should he win and be deemed the No. 1 contender.
But first things first, he has to get through Koscheck, and it's a fight he believes is going to live up to the hype.
"I would say, probably, I think this fight's actually pretty even because we're both complete fighters," Hendricks said. "We both like to hit people in the face, but I believe that it's going to be a little bit of everywhere because the later you go in the rounds, the easier it is to get takedowns. So I think you're going to see that – you're not going to see just another boring wrestling match. I think it's going to be a fun one for everybody to watch."