Like countless bachelors, gamblers, and thrill seekers before him, #JohnyHendricks has a lot of Vegas memories that he wishes would just stay there.
The origin of Bigg Rigg's beef with the fight capital of the world was not borne out of some perceived snub at the hands of the Nevada Athletic Commission, ala Conor McGregor, though. No, Hendricks' gripe with Vegas is much simpler than that: he just can't win there.
To date, all five of the former welterweight champion's losses have occurred inside #SinCity, beginning with a surprising decision loss to Rick Story back in 2010 and carrying through his last two outings, a pair of losses to Stephen Thompson and Kelvin Gastelum that marked the first losing streak in his near 10-year career. Adding insult to injury, Hendricks also has Vegas (or at least, it's judges) to thank for the two most important and heartbreaking decisions he has ever faced -- the first being his title fight with Georges St-Pierre at UFC 167, and the second being his title fight with Robbie Lawler at UFC 181.
In both instances, the case could still be made that Hendricks should earned the nod, and in both instances, Hendricks was given the short end of the stick.
Following his most recent decision loss to Gastelum at UFC 200, Hendricks even made note of his streak of bad luck and declared that his days of fighting in Las Vegas were through.
So this being the UFC and all, there was only one possible place that Hendricks would wind up for what could be a make-or-break fight in his career. Hint: It's not Texas.
Instead, Hendricks will attempt to turn things around in the very place that has scorned him again and again when he faces off against Neil Magny in, you guessed it, Las Vegas. According to an announcement made by the UFC last night, the two will do battle on the promotion's always-extravagant year-end card, UFC 207: Nunes vs. Rousey, on December 30.
For Hendricks, the fight represents not only the chance to right some wrongs in Vegas, but to reintroduce fans to the knockout artist that has sadly been missing since the run that led to his first title shot close to three years ago. The guy who looked like he was launching Martin Kampmann and Jon Fitch out of cannons with his right hand has been a shadow of his former self in recent appearances, getting picked apart by Thompson back in February and being outworked on both the feet and the mat by Gastelum thereafter.
In short, the former champ appears to have lost the spark that made him both an NCAA and UFC champion, which is what makes it all the more fitting that he's basically being forced to find his groove in the city that swings to a different beat. Thankfully, Hendricks' recent run of diminishing returns is not something that he has gone blind to.
Speaking with Megan Olivi in the immediate aftermath of his UFC 200 loss, Hendricks was quick to face the realities of his recent struggles and even went so far as to question just where his future lies in the sport.
Do I still want to fight? Because that fight right there shows me that I don’t—but I do. What do I have to do to get that fire back? I don’t know. It’s disappointing when I know I could’ve won, I should’ve won, and I go out there and look like a pathetic newborn. We’ll see what’s next.
In booking Hendricks against Magny -- a guy who has paired 10 wins against just two losses since 2014 -- I'd say it's pretty evident what the UFC is envisioning for him next. For his sake, let's hope he's found the fire again.