Johny Hendricks is a man reinvented at 185-pounds.
Having lost three fights in a row at welterweight in 2016, the former UFC champion made his middleweight debut at #UFCHalifax, defeating Hector Lombard.
"Now at 185, I'm not killing myself," Hendricks said. "Like this weekend, I thought about cutting weight , but I was like nah. I started actually cutting weight yesterday and today I'm going to hit 189, [having] instead of 198. For me it feels like I'm working out so hard because I can eat and drink myself back. But, then again, it feels like I've got to get that out of my mind because 170 was a grind."
Despite bigger men at middleweight, Hendricks still feels like he has some big advantages over the other men in the division.
"A lot of these guys at 85--I've been training with an 85-pounder and he walks around at 220-230," Hendricks said. "The thing that these guys are not used to is that at the welterweight division, yeah we are bigger, no one I've fought in the welterweight division has been stronger than me, but you're right, you can hold on to them and you can relax in places if you want to. Whereas at 85, they aren't used to our hand speed. If you look at the 170 division, they can all wrestle they can all do jiu-jitsu and they can all strike. So we have to be fast, we have to be accurate with our punches and kicks because I feel like it's a well rounded division. Whereas at 85, whenever I'm up there, I feel like I'm so fast. I'm a lot faster than these guys so far. Even the guys that I've brought in that 85-pounders, they just seem slow and that's one of my greatest attributes."
Having gone through the pain of losing three in a row for the first time in his career, Hendricks now feels in a much better.
The step up in weight division has made the time between camps far more manageable for the Texan, and he said he no longer dreads the call from the UFC to fight again:
"Do I still enjoying doing what I do? Do I still want to wake up, go to the gym, workout five hours a day, be a tired--this all comes with being a fighter. Do I still want to do that? That was sort of [the] last fight. It was do I still enjoy this? This fight has been the same way in that I'm able to learn. It's not like, hey, you take a month off, you up to blow up 215, the reason you do that is because you know they're going to call you in a month and say, 'Hey Johny you're going to fight in 12 weeks at 170,' and life sucks. Whereas after the last fight, I took a week and a half off and I was back in the gym. I was working out twice, three times a week and that doesn't happen. It hasn't happened for a very long time because I used to hate going there and trying to work because I knew what was going to happen. I knew that it meant it's time to cut weight."
While happy with fighting at middleweight, Hendricks still believes that the UFC has room for improvement when it comes to their weight classes, and he'd like to see more introduced.
"I told Joe Silva three fights ago that I would love them to open up a 175," Hendricks said. "These days I'm doing well at 85, I'm never going to see the 70s again, but whenever I was there, I told him it sucks because in every sport there's only a ten pound gap until you get to heavyweight right. In wrestling it would be a 7-pound weight difference until you got to 74, 84, 97 and then heavyweight. That's the same way I was trying to tell them, I was like, 'Hey, if you could do a 75, 85, 95, 205, heavy,' now you're sitting these saying it's going to dilute it, but look what's happening right now, everyone is started to learn you can't cut weight like you used to. You have to fight closer to your body weight."
If a 175-pound division were to be created, Hendricks says there'd be a good possibility that he'd make the cut.
"Well that's the thing, I don't see why not," Hendricks said. "Realistically, If they well and truly said, 'Hey you can fight at 175,' because 175 is hard to make it, but it's not a killer. So if I can sit there and I can make 175 and do it right, then lets just say it's not out of my realm to fight there as of right now."
Hendricks vs. Boetsch will serve as the co-main event for #UFCOKC on Sunday, June 25.