Saturday night marks the long-awaited return of Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks. After a dominant decision victory over Matt Brown at UFC 185 this past March, Hendricks was forced to pull-out of a fight against fellow Welterweight contender Tyron Woodley after being hospitalized from kidney stones due to a tough weight cut at UFC 192. Hendricks explained the scenario to Ariel Helwani on an episode of the MMA Hour:
“Everything was going good. I was drinking two and half gallons a day and I was walking right around 193, which is normal. Then my body just quit, I couldn’t go to the bathroom. It was was if my body was holding on to everything, which was sort of weird. So we started doing the weight cut, and I was still drinking two and half gallons a day. Then I just hit a plateau where I would feel lightheaded, which is common. I didn’t think anything of it, and then I woke up on Thursday feeling really good at 184 pounds. I tried to push through it, went and did another session and worked out and that is when I realized something was wrong. Both my left and right sides started to hurt. I went to the hospital and that’s when I found out that my intestines were dried up and that I had a kidney stone on my right side.”
Fast-forward four months and things aren’t going good for Hendricks, they’re going great. A new diet with the help of a new nutritionist, Louis Giordano, has Bigg Rigg looking and feeling great. Even on fight week when cutting weight is typically the most mentally and physically draining aspect of fight week, things couldn’t be better for the former Welterweight champ. As he explained to John Morgan of MMAjunkie, “I’ve been eating six, seven meals a day, drinking a gallon of water a day,” he said. “I haven’t been cutting weight. I haven’t tried to lose any (weight). All I’ve tried to do is hit mits and work out. Every time I work out, I want to lose three pounds and I come back five pounds lighter. So I lose more than I want to. … I have more energy because I’m eating and I’m fueling right. … It’s a huge relief.”
Now that Hendricks has knocked out his battle with weight issues he can focus solely on his opponent Saturday night, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. After boasting an impressive undefeated kickboxing record, Thompson has transitioned nicely into MMA carrying an impressive record of 11-1. Wonderboy is known for his flashy highlight-reel kicks that often stun and finish opponents. After suffering his first defeat to Matt Brown in April 2012, Thompson’s carrying a 5-fight winning streak defeating the likes of Jake Ellenberger and Patrick Cote among others. With Wonderboy displaying such a diverse arsenal of kicks, common sense would point to Hendricks looking to use his wrestling to take the fight to the mat, where Thompson has shown vulnerability at times. Hendricks knows what game plan he expects to face on Saturday, “I know what he wants to do. I know exactly what he needs to do. He needs to keep me at kicking distance. Kicking distance, kicking distance, kicking distance. … It’s mind games. It’s all in fun.”
But don’t look for Bigg Rigg to turn this fight into a wrestling match. His confidence in both his wrestling and striking skills is right where it needs to be leading up to such a big fight and he’s proven why so many times. “Why does everybody doubt my striking? Really?” Hendricks asked. “(Martin) Kampmann was going to beat me in the striking world. Carlos Condit was going to beat me in the striking world. Jon Fitch was going to outwrestle me. Josh Koscheck was going to out-strike me and outwrestle me. (Georges St-Pierre) was going to out-jab me. Everybody doubts my striking, and that’s one of the reasons I like to prove people wrong. … I’ve got OK striking as well. He might have to be a little worried of that.”
Many questions will be answered by Hendricks on Fight Night. He will look to silence critics and move one step closer to regaining his Welterweight title, which many believe he never even lost. In the face of adversity as his nickname suggests, Bigg Rigg keeps pushing forward and will rise up like real champions always do.
Catch this explosive matchup in the main event of UFC Fight Night 82: Hendricks vs. Thompson as the main card starts Saturday night at 10 p.m. EST/ 7 p.m. PST live on Fox Sports 1!
Get hip bey checking out of fight week video blog series following around Johny and his crew –