Less than a minute into his UFC number one contender elimination bout with Martin Kampmann, Johnny Hendricks scored a phenomenal first round knockout.
“Big Rigg” couldn’t have been prouder. Cheering through the cage, knowing he had just earned a career-defining lifelong dream fight against undisputed UFC Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
UFC President Dana White congratulated Hendricks at the post-fight presser. Saying the talented mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter was next in line for St. Pierre.
Then the rain hit his parade as Dana White announced Nick Diaz, who lost his previous fight with Carlos Condit, would get the opportunity to face St. Pierre. Not Hendricks, who most MMA fans felt earned the shot much more.
This isn’t a new thing. Hendricks isn’t the first to be mistreated by UFC favoritism, and for financial purposes he will not be the last.
As we know, the UFC milks off prophets, Diaz, known for his smack talk and crude mentality, didn’t have to fight in the ring to get the St-Pierre fight. Instead, he talked, and talked and talked some more on Twitter and to the media. White, knowing the superior fan base held by Diaz would draw more bang for his buck, sent the contracts out for St. Pierre vs. Diaz.
What if Hendricks was the one who got the UFC 158 title shot against St. Pierre? What if a left hook sunk on the Canadian’s chin? Well, a mega-fight with MMA legend Anderson Silva would go down the drain. His local mixed martial arts fans would lose interest in seeing him fight, and long-term, a dent would hit the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s wallet.
For them, it’s not worth being fair. Even if Hendricks does finally get a strenuously earned title bout with St. Pierre, it is unlikely to happen for a while seeing many more lucrative opportunities on tap. So it seems Johnny Hendricks will have to wait.
Another example includes Jon Fitch. The MMA veteran lost a UFC 87 bout with St-Pierre, even after lining up five impressive victories against the likes of Thiago Alves and Paulo Thiago.
Ironically, Fitch’s title rematch aspirations were derailed by Johnny Hendricks at UFC 141 with a first round knockout. He was promptly removed from the UFC a few fights later, due to his less exciting style – despite boasting world-level talent.
Recently, a ranking system was introduced in which various industry insiders and mixed martial arts media members vote for official monthly top 10 rankings and helps pick mandatory challengers. It’s a good, but flawed system. With luck, it will hopefully avoid situations like Hendricks’ case.
Fitch and Hendricks are examples of the cruel reality that MMA brings to the table. In-ring fortitude doesn’t cut it anymore. You need to talk, you need to hype and you need to fight.
Sadly, most cannot bring the pain in both areas.
While justice may not be served from the beginning, if a mixed martial arts fighter keeps looking good and keeps winning fights, favoritism in the UFC won’t keep him from achieving his dreams.