- Brett Okamoto
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It was impossible to miss. His cornermen had been ushered away, St-Pierre stood across the cage and Hendricks, while pacing, began wiggling his head and mouthing words to himself with an almost sarcastic look on his face.
“Hendricks looks relaxed,” said UFC commentator Joe Rogan on the live broadcast. “Look at him. He’s bobbing his head back and forth. Looks like he’s singing to himself. What is he doing?”
Turns out, Hendricks (15-2), who faces Robbie Lawler for the welterweight title at UFC 171 this weekend in Dallas, was singing to himself -- but that wasn’t all. Imagine 100 little Johny Hendricks in his head telling him 100 different things at once.
"I was telling myself, 'You won it. You won it,'" Hendricks told ESPN.com. "'Do not get knocked out. Do not get submitted.' Those were the things I was telling myself.
"Then a song popped in my head and I said, 'Enjoy this moment. It’s the last round against someone many people say is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.'"
Did that mindset -- enjoy the moment, don’t get finished -- cost him the fight? Some said it did, as Hendricks surrendered two takedowns in the fifth and threw only 21 total punches, which made it by far his least active round.
All three judges awarded the final five minutes to St-Pierre.
Hendricks, however, said he would handle the final round exactly the same way if given a second chance. Things tend to get complicated by the fifth round of a UFC title fight against an all-time great. Hendricks believes he handled it as best he could.
“I still thought the fifth round was tough to score,” Hendricks said. “The reason I told myself not to get finished was when I stood up for the fifth round, my knee sort of buckled. I think he kicked a nerve when I checked one of his kicks earlier in the fight and that nerve spazzed out on me.
“I thought to myself, 'OK, if I throw a hard punch and my knee goes out on me, that won’t look great. How do I do this? How do I do that?' I was telling myself all these things in a short, brief period. 'How do I keep this fight on my side?'"
That doesn’t mean Hendricks took nothing away from his narrow loss to St-Pierre at UFC 167. He goes into that and more below.
ESPN.com: Immediately after the loss to St-Pierre, you said, "This will never happen again." How much has that fight changed your approach moving forward?
Hendricks: You don’t want to change [a lot]. What you want to do is prepare for something like that. I went in there saying, 'There’s no way this guy is beating me.' I sort of got away from what got me there. In this fight, I had to tell myself, 'There are ways Robbie can beat you. What are those ways? How do I beat them?'
ESPN.com: You think because you felt so in control during the fight you might not have realized the moments when it appeared he was scoring on you?
Hendricks: No. The first takedown he got I was like, "Son of a b----. You’ve got to be kidding me. The thing I told everybody wouldn’t happen, happened in the first 10 seconds. You’re an idiot." On the feet, the way that I parry and block stuff, I think it hurts me in that if you rewatch them, they don’t land but it looks like they do in real time. What judges are looking at, it’s hard to tell. Someone throws a punch, bam, did that hit? The way I move my head and parry, it didn’t touch me. But those are things I have to be more cautious of and say, 'OK, that might have looked like it landed, I have to throw something back.'
ESPN.com: That fight was a good example for anyone who wants to make a case for a half-point scoring system. The rounds you won were more decisive. Are you in favor of that system or is that not the answer?
Hendricks: Realistically, I don’t know. I have no clue. I’ve said it from the start that I would hate to be a judge. There are times I will watch a fight and say a guy clearly lost and then go back and rewatch it and still think he lost but say, well, what did they score? I don’t know how to do it. I’m glad I don’t have to do it.
ESPN.com: You mentioned in a recent interview the possibility of moving to 185 pounds. Is this something you’ve actually considered or was it just conversation?
Hendricks: It’s something I have considered. I walk around at 220. I would be at 185 pounds right now if I weren't 5-foot-9. The good Lord didn’t bless me with a lot of height. That’s the only reason I'm at 170. I’m getting older and I know the body and one day it’s going to be hard to get to 170. Everybody I’m facing has a 76-inch reach and is 6-foot anyway. The average at middleweight is 6-foot-1, 6-foot-2. I’m already fighting taller guys.
ESPN.com: You think fighting at 170 keeps you honest, though, in terms of forcing you to get in shape in addition to fighting smaller guys?
Hendricks: If I can make 185 feel like 178 [that’s the goal]. Let’s say two years from now, I’m 32, I’ve defended the belt four or five times and I want to move up? I’d put on six pounds of muscle. The way my body works, I could still walk around at the same weight, but just put on muscle weight.
In the final seconds of the break between the fourth and fifth rounds of his title fight against Georges St-Pierre in November, it looked like Johny Hendricks started singing to himself.