Right about now, most people are preparing to summon their inner gluttons, set to devour heaps of turkey, stuffing, and pecan pie on Thanksgiving. But not UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks: he’s in the middle of dropping 42 pounds ahead of his upcoming UFC 181 title fight against Robbie Lawler.
“Mike [Dolce’s] been working with me a lot this fight to get my weight down … because I didn’t like the way the last cut went,” explains Hendricks of his longtime nutritionist. “The weight’s coming low… and hopefully this fight we’re gonna get lower than we ever have before.”
Cutting weight is no stranger to Hendricks, 31, a lifelong wrestler and two-time Division-I national champion at Oklahoma State University. And while he competed at 165 pounds during his college career, “Bigg Rigg” walks around at a staggering 212 pounds these days.
Now halfway home to his contracted weight of 170 pounds, coming in at 193 this morning, Hendricks has one more battle before he squares off with Lawler at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on December 6—but shedding twenty-plus pounds during the holidays is nothing new for the four-time All American.
“There’s not a lot of times I actually had a Thanksgiving because if you […] look at OSU college wrestling… right now they’re getting prepared for big-time duels and big-time tournaments this week, and next week,” offers Hendricks. “So, for five years, I really didn’t have a Thanksgiving.”
With most traditional foods eliminated from his upcoming holiday rituals, Hendricks shifts his focus and gratitude to his support system this time of year. A devout family man, husband, and father of three young daughters, he sees the sacrifice of this American feast as a minor hurdle en route to his first title defense.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” adds Hendricks. “For me, it’s not about the food it’s about the toughening… if I can be around my wife and kids, friends and family for the day, then that’s what Thanksgiving is for me.”
Adding extra pressure to Hendricks’ current weight cut is the near failure of his previous regiment in March, when he tipped the scales at 171.5 pound ahead of his UFC 171 bout against Lawler.
Needing an extra two hours to shed the additional 680 grams, Hendricks eventually made the weight and captured the welterweight strap in a blistering five-round affair. But his previous camp was plagued by injuries, and with his torn right bicep and fractured shin—both of which he fought with against Lawler—now healed, he expects a smooth descent to the welterweight limit.
“A lot of stuff happened for that weight cut to go bad,” explains Hendricks. “The doctors said that [I] could have held up to four pounds of water because of my arm and my shin…having a fractured shin and a torn bicep, my body might not release the water.”
Hendricks, who is staying busy at Dallas’ Team Takedown with head trainer Marc Laimon, is now less than two weeks away from weigh-ins. He continues to remain focused on defending his title and Lawler, but still, it’s impossible for him to completely eliminate the distraction of the upcoming Thanksgiving feast.
“You know, I like ham, mashed potatoes, and the pies you get to eat. I like pumpkin pie, apple pie; those are certain things you’re not gonna get to enjoy,” offers Hendricks. “But I get to defend my title, and I could miss a Thanksgiving dinner.”
Perhaps it’s his most recent Thanksgiving, which came after a heartbreaking, split-decision loss to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 167 that minimizes the desire to gorge and grub on turkey. But regardless of the outcome on December 6, Hendricks will harvest his own prey for his next feast.
“I love bird hunting,” adds Hendricks, an avid marksman. “I like deer hunting, [and] I want to go elk, moose, and bear hunting…but I want to shoot them with a bow.”
Still, for Johny Hendricks there’s one weapon more potent and powerful than any handgun, rifle, or crossbow: a vicious left hand that he’ll be looking to connect with Robbie Lawler’s jaw come December 6.
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