Following a UFC Fight Night 24 victory and $55,000 "Knockout of the Night" bonus, Johny Hendricks underwent his customary post-fight shave and now plans to take a few days off before he's back in the gym.
But as he today told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio), he knows whom he wants next.
"The guy I've been looking at and we've been talking about – and the guy is really tough and been around the block for a while and fought some of the toughest guys in the [welterweight and lightweight] classes – is Diego Sanchez," he said.
In a bout relegated to the untelevised preliminary card, Hendricks scored the UFC Fight Night 24's only knockout. He floored youngster T.J. Waldburger with a straight punch and then followed him to the mat with some fight-ending followup shots.
Once he left Seattle's KeyArena, Hendricks (10-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC), who successfully rebounded from his first career loss with the win, said he began thinking about Sanchez (23-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC).
"He's a tough fighter," Hendricks said. "He comes out there, he brings it every fight, and he's gone toe to toe with some of the best fighters at 170 and 155. Who better to go out there and compete against than him?"
So does he have a beef with the Team Jackson fighter, or is this a respectful call-out?
"It's respectful," he said. "Diego Sanchez is a nice guy. It's just that I know where I want to be, and he's right there where I want to be. He's a great fighter."
Hendricks wants to make a summer return. He thinks a fight with Sanchez, who recently earned a hotly contested split-decision victory over Martin Kampmann at UFC on Versus 3, would make a perfect addition to a July 2 UFC 132 card in Las Vegas. His Team Takedown teammate Shane Roller is on the card (and fighting Melvin Guillard), and he'd love for them to go through a fight camp together.
Additionally, he thinks he's better prepared for someone of Sanchez's caliber. Although a two-time NCAA Division I national wrestling champion and four-time All-American, he's always displayed solid striking. In fact, six of his 10 career wins now have come via knockout.
But after his December decision loss to Rick Story, he fixed a glitch in his style.
"I got away from setting my feet when I threw my punches," he said. "I got into the mode where I didn't want to try to get hit. And that was my whole goal in the (Story) fight. But I got back to, 'Hey, they're going to hit me, but I'm going to try to hit them back that much harder.'"
That willingness to stay in the pocket paid off against Waldburger, who was floored with a punch that Hendricks often drills.
"I actually do that in training where you post the head and throw that straight right down the middle because you sort of blind them, and they can't see the punch coming," he said. "That's when you knock people. It's not how hard you hit. It's (landing) the punch they don't see coming."
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