TORONTO — Spurned welterweight contender Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks says UFC champion Georges St-Pierre is avoiding him because of his knockout power.
Hendricks (14-1) has won five straight to punch his way to the front of the 170-pound contenders’ line. But he finds himself having to wait his turn as St-Pierre focuses first on Nick Diaz, and then possibly Anderson Silva.
“The first thing that went through my mind is that if I didn’t show the power that I did, would I have got that (GSP) fight?” Hendricks said Thursday.
“My striking power is something he’s worried about,” he added. “We saw it in the (Carlos) Condit fight, we’ve seen it before. Whenever he gets hit, whenever he gets rocked, he doesn’t like it. And I think I’m a threat to his belt, I really do. And that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself.
“And I’m going to keep working and improving myself, to keep being a bigger threat to him.”
Hendricks, a former NCAA all-American wrestler with heavy hands, said he was initially livid at the news he was being passed over.
“I’ve sort of calmed down from that first initial shock,” he said.
Having requested a date with Diaz, GSP gets his wish March 16 in the main event of UFC 158 in Montreal. Hendricks will fight Jake (The Juggernaut) Ellenberger (28-6) in an earlier fight on the main card at the Bell Centre.
“It’s not the fight that I wanted but it’s still a tough fight. And not only that, it’s a fight that can better prepare me for GSP,” said Hendricks, clearly seeing the glass as half-full.
But he is also aware of the risks he faces.
“You only get so many opportunities for a title shot. And here mine has been taken away from me. And who’s to say I go out and win my next fight?”
Asked if he thinks less of the champion now, Hendricks replied: “Yeah. The way that he handled this? Yes.”
St-Pierre did not immediately respond to an interview request Thursday.
Like UFC boss Dana White, St-Pierre has reportedly said Hendricks will get his shot. But he says fans want to see him fight Diaz first.
“They’re going to tune in whenever I fight,” responded Hendricks, referring to the fans. “You better believe that. … No matter what happens, I have a chance to finish at any given moment and that’s something that fans like to see.”
Hendricks is coming off a 46-second knockout of Martin (The Hitman) Kampmann on the same UFC 154 card in Montreal that saw St-Pierre, returning from a lengthy injury layoff, win a five-round decision over Carlos (Natural Born Killer) Condit.
“I’m still improving and GSP said that he didn’t have the performance he wanted against Carlos Condit,” Hendricks said. “I think he didn’t want to take me on the next fight, because he probably wants to make sure that he has the best possible preparation he can to fight me.”
Diaz (26-8), sidelined by a drug suspension for marijuana, has not fought since losing the interim title bout to Condit in February during GSP’s injury absence. White said St-Pierre (23-2) had requested the Diaz fight, calling it unfinished business. The two were slated to meet in October 2011 but Diaz was yanked by the UFC after failing to turn up for news conferences in Toronto and Las Vegas with St-Pierre.
White said St-Pierre had earned the right to get his wish and that Hendricks, while on a good run, would have to wait his turn.
Hendricks has defeated a pair of welterweights who lost title shots to the 31-year-old St-Pierre. The 2005 and ’06 NCAA champion wrestler at 165 pounds won a decision over Josh Koscheck and knocked out Jon Fitch in 12 seconds.
He also beat Mike Pierce and T.J. Waldburger at the start of his current win streak.
“I’ve done everything I could to put myself in this position and for him (St-Pierre) to sit here and take that away from me, that’s what eats at me the most — is that some guy, not even the company (UFC), it’s a guy that took it from me.”
The delay in his title shot is only adding to his motivation and giving him time to get better, Hendricks said.
“We know that GSP has sort of maintained where’s he’s at the last couple of years and I’m only improving.”
The proposed GSP-Silva super-fight could further delay Hendricks’s title aspirations.
“I’ve thought about that,” said Hendricks. “If that happens, I think I’d try to get a hold of Anderson Silva and tell him ’Please don’t take the fight. Let me have a shot at him. And if he beats me, then by all means, do what you want to do.”’
One positive Hendricks has taken from the whole experience is the support from fans via social media.
“Man, that was such a low, low day but to see the support that I got was amazing. Absolutely amazing.”
The 29-year-old Hendricks took to social media himself earlier in the day to announce that he and his wife Christina are expecting their third child. They already have a three- and one-year-old.