After a loss to Tim Boetsch that left his recent UFC record at 2-4, Johny Hendricks decided he could no longer afford to walk the same path. He needed a change of scenery from his native Texas.
“I really didn’t want to leave my kids,” Hendricks on Wednesday told MMAjunkie Radio. “But it’s to a point to where, do I want to just compete, or do I want to win again?”
Once the top man at 170 pounds, the former champion Hendrick (18-7 MMA, 13-7 UFC) is running out of options as he tries to pull out of a long career slide. A fight against unbeaten Paulo Borrachinha (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) at UFC 217 could be his last chance to correct course.
Hendricks, 34, seems to grasp the stakes. He made headlines earlier this month by traveling to Albuquerque, N.M., for a residency with the famed Jackson Wink MMA Academy, which has trained two of his former opponents.
“I know I can fight better,” Hendricks said. “I’ve proven it, but I’ve got to do it consistently now.”
In the buildup to the Nov. 4 fight, headlined by his two-time foe Georges St-Pierre at Madison Square Garden in New York, Henricks plans to split time between New Mexico and Texas, driving home on the weekends to see his family. It’s an uncomfortable move, but a necessary one. By making it, Hendricks said he primarily sought out something he lacked in previous camps: sparring partners.
“That’s my problem,” Hendricks said. “One camp might be really good, but the next one sucks, and the reason why is I can’t get any training partners.”
Earlier in his career, when his management was overseen by Team Takedown, Hendricks was able to tailor his work in the gym toward his opponents. He had sparring partners flown out to the team’s facility in Arlington, Texas.
Since the team’s collapse amid a fight with its management, Hendricks largely has been on his own. Although he’s continued to work with individual coaches, he’s struggled to rebuild a reliable infrastructure around his preparation.
When he thought about how to fix the problem, Jackson Wink immediately came to mind. He remembered facing fighters from the team and being impressed by the coaching that was coming from their corners. He figured if anything, coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn didn’t need a refresher on what he brought to the table.
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Plus, the Southwestern facility is a one-stop shop for UFC fighters and coaches. It’s home to some of the brightest talent in the sport.
Through a mutual friend, Hendricks reached out to Winkeljohn, who cleared the request through the rest of the team before giving the green light.
Hendricks drove to Albuquerque and stayed with UFC welterweight Donald Cerrone, who owns the “BMF” training facility and ranch that has housed many Jackson Wink fighters.
Although Hendricks was uncertain at the response he’d receive from team members, he said he was eagerly welcomed. Then, everyone got to work.
Hendricks trained with established fighters such as Cerrone and said he also got good looks from up-and-comers looking to give him a tough time in the cage.
“I sparred 12 times in a week,” Hendricks said. “Sometimes, that’s what my whole camp is. By the end of the week, I’m starting to pick up things.”
Now, Hendricks is certain he made the right choice. He said even the support staff is on a different level for fighters as they prepare for bouts.
“They have people that can work on you there, so after practice, you have something that’s not feeling right, they do their job, and by the next day, it’s almost healed,” Hendricks said. “That’s going to further my career, as well. Just training smarter.”
Hendricks said Jackson has a plan for his training at the gym and when he returns home. But Hendricks already gets the sense that he’s turning a corner in the way he fights.
It took a blowout loss to Boetsch to get him there, but Hendricks is resolved to see through his resolution to train the way he needs to ensure victory.
“I just took a step back and said this is where I need to be,” Hendricks said. “If I want to do what I want to do, I have to make that sacrifice.”
For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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