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Morning Report: Free agent Johnny Hendricks says UFC wants him back at welterweight

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In 2014, Johnny Hendricks was on top of the world as the UFC welterweight champion. Now, just a few years later, Hendricks has lost six of his last eight fights, including a failed move to middleweight that has seen him knocked out in his last two fights. But though to many it would appear that Hendricks is nearing the end of his career, “Big Rigg” disagrees.

In a recent interview with MMAJunkie Radio, Hendricks, who is currently a free agent, says that he still has a lot of fight left in him but that he wants to return back to the weight class in which he won the title, and the UFC wants the same.

“I’m a free agent,” said Hendricks. “I am up for grabs. The UFC stills wants me. They want me back at 170 [pounds] and I agree. If you’re gonna keep giving me these big ol’ 85 pounders, I’ve got to get back down to 170.”

Hendricks rose to prominence as a welterweight, losing a controversial split decision to 170-pound GOAT Georges St-Pierre in GSP’s last welterweight fight to date. He then won the title in his next bout with a unanimous decision win over Robbie Lawler before dropping it in their rematch in another controversial decision. Since then though, Hendricks has had trouble both inside the cage and on the scale. He missed weight in back-to-back fights against Kelvin Gastelum and Neil Magny, precipitating his move up to 185 pounds, where he then went on to miss weight against Tim Boetsch. But despite his recent struggles with the scale, Hendricks is confident a return to 170 pounds is manageable.

“I’ve got to fight back to what I want to get to,” said Hendricks. “I’m not that type of guy that says, ‘No, I think I deserve more.’ I will get back to where I want to be at the welterweight division. I really do believe that. I’m starting to get faster. I’m working with a trainer here, Ryan. He’s been working on my fast-twitch movement, he’s been working on my speed – quickness, explosion – and whenever I’m doing these things and then I go back and train boxing or whatever, everyone can see that I’m getting quicker and my weight is coming down.”

Hendricks decision to return to 170 pounds comes as a bit of a surprise, considering the toll the weight cut takes on his body. Always a large 170-pound fighter, Hendricks openly discussed considering retirement after the weight-cut for his title defense against Robbie Lawler at UFC 181 and just last year claimed that he never wanted to fight at welterweight “ever again.” And while it would appear his desire to continue competing and his struggles with the size disadvantage he faces at middleweight would be the cause of his change in tune, Hendricks says that he actually never really wanted to go up to 185 pounds in the first place but that his experience there gave him renewed confidence in making another run in the 170-pound division.

“Right after my last fight I emailed them saying, ‘Hey, I want to go back to 170. Obviously, y’all don’t want me at 185. I understand,’” said Hendricks. “And realistically, the only reason I went up to 185 was because I thought I had one more fight on my contract. So I go, screw 170, I’m gonna go to 85 and then we can renegotiate a contract. . .

“Needless to say, I got two big ol’ boys and it didn’t go the way I wanted it to. But after fighting those fights, it really brought back something in me because I was like, ‘Dude, they don’t kick that hard.’ I still hurt all those 85-pounders with my punches and with my kicks. So if I can hurt 85-pounders, what can I do if I go back to 170. It sort of built my confidence back up to where I believe in my power, I believe in what I can do.”


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FINAL THOUGHTS

Take it easy everyone and see y’all tomorrow.


EXIT POLL


If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @JedKMeshew on Twitter and let him know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram, add us on Snapchat at MMA-Fighting, and like us on Facebook.




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