New Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight champion Johny Hendricks lauded his opponent, Robbie Lawler, for a battle well-fought in the main event of UFC 171 last weekend in Dallas.
The two went to war for five rounds, but it was Hendricks who earned the nod of the judges and the UFC belt.
“Take nothing away from Robbie,” Hendricks said in MMA Fighting. “He fought hard, too. We were out there, and I was looking like, man, ‘please call my name. please call my name.’ They did, and it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Hendricks won the first two rounds as his huge left hand regularly landed, but Lawler rebounded in rounds three and four, opening up a cut on Hendricks’ right eye.
Going into the fifth round, Hendricks said he knew that the match was tied at two rounds apiece.
“I looked at (my coaches) and I said, it’s two to two. I’ve got to win this round. I’m not dumb. I’m not going to be one of those naïve fighters who goes (and thinks that it’s) four to zero,” said Hendricks.
“I’m true to myself. I knew I had to go out there and win the fifth round. My coaches, they told me what I needed to hear… and I took it to heart. Leave everything out there. Five minutes can change the world,” he added.
Hendricks completed a crucial takedown in the fifth round and won with scores of 48-47 across the board.
He later admitted that he did not expect for the fight to last the distance, considering that both he and Lawler carried serious knockout power.
“Realistically, I thought we were both going to knock each other out in the first or the second round. I didn’t think we were going to go five,” he said.
After commending Lawler, Hendricks said he wants to fight former champion Georges St-Pierre one more time.
“I’d like to fight Georges again. I think it would be fun. We had a good match. I think I’m better. I’m going to get stronger,” he said.
St-Pierre won a controversial decision against Hendricks in November, but relinquished the belt shortly thereafter to take a break from the sport.