New UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks fought Robbie Lawler with an injured right elbow that was painful enough to make him consider pulling out of the UFC 171 title bout, the fighter revealed.
Hendricks defeated Lawler in a five-round war, winning a unanimous decision, to become the new UFC champion after longtime title-holder Georges St-Pierre vacated the belt late last year.
In an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Hendricks revealed that he had suffered an injury during training.
“It’s my elbow. It happened actually a week-and-a-half before, and it happened in the first round,” he said.
The injury acted up again early in the fight while he was “throwing a hook,” Hendricks recalled. “I don’t know what happened. I felt my arm actually pop.”
Because of the pain, he was unable to regularly complete takedowns, and as the pain worsened, Lawler was able to seize control of the fight.
“I was pretty hurt. I’m not going to lie. He hit me pretty good,” said Hendricks.
Hendricks pulled out the victory by being the more active fighter in the final frame, and completed a crucial takedown that may have made the difference.
But he admitted that he and his team considered withdrawing from the fight.
“We thought about it, but that world championship means a lot more,” said Hendricks.
Hendricks won the UFC title just months after losing to St-Pierre in controversial fashion. St-Pierre beat him via split decision, but relinquished the title shortly thereafter, giving Hendricks another chance to claim the belt.