UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks is targeting a return at the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015 following surgery to repair a torn bicep and a fractured shin that’s kept him out of action since winning the title in March.
Hendricks wasted no time following his five round decision win over Robbie Lawler to schedule and have the surgery on his arm, and original estimates had the champion coming back to competition in September or October.
The problem is until the body starts healing and the doctors have a chance to see the progress, there’s no real timeline for a return to action until the process is complete. Now Hendricks has a clear vision of when he can book his next fight and that’s looking like the end of the year.
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"Right now, I’m training, my doctor won’t clear me for another five or six weeks but I’m training. I’m getting to load my biceps up, I’m getting to do the things I need to do, which is great, I love it. I’m hoping by the end of the year. I think I can get there and be fine. I think there’s a December card or a January card, one of those two," Hendricks revealed when speaking to FOX Sports on Friday. "With my doctor being happy and me being 100-percent healthy I think that would be the best thing out there."
I’m hoping by the end of the year. I think I can get there and be fine. I think there’s a December card or a January card, one of those two
— Johny Hendricks
It’s always hard to speculate return times when it comes to injury so Hendricks was always guessing when it came to the exact date for booking his first title defense. He still has another month or two before he can even be cleared to return to full sparring so until then Hendricks is just working out as best he can until he gets the go ahead to push forward at 100-percent.
"Whenever I’m healing the doctor doesn’t know if my body heals faster or slower. Did I do the right things or did I do something stupid and re-injure it? You just can’t tell any of those things. I did everything right, my body healed up right — I’m throwing punches, I’m hitting the heavy bag, I’m hitting the speed bag, I’m doing like light, light sparring, but I’m trying to get back to where I need to be," Hendricks said. "That’s what the doctor wants."
Hendricks admits it’s been tough sitting out these last few months while the welterweight division has rolled on in his absence. Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown have kept busy and will fight each other at next weekend’s UFC Fight Night card from San Jose, while others like Rory MacDonald have continued to climb the rankings while he’s been recovering from surgery.
As frustrating as it’s been, Hendricks is also getting healthy for the first time in years. He believes his ultra busy schedule between 2013 and 2014 is what led to his torn bicep and fractured leg because he was never allowing himself time to heal between fight camps.
"That’s probably what tore my bicep and that’s why I went into the fight with a fractured leg. I went in there with two injured weapons and that’s the thing, I do want to be active, I do want to do these things, I want to stay in the Octagon because I love fighting. Whenever I’m sitting here watching these guys and listening to them and seeing that they’re out there fighting, I don’t know if they’re having fun but I wish I was! I’m sitting there going this sucks, but it actually let my body heal," Hendricks said. "There’s a lot of injuries I didn’t know about that healed now. I’m actually going into a camp 100-percent healed and 100-percent recovered and it makes me wonder how good could I be?"
Hendricks already knows when he returns in December or January that he will face the winner of the Lawler vs. Brown fight, which gives him a target to focus on while he’s finishing rehabilitation on his arm and getting back in fight shape.
One thing he won’t be doing, however, is rooting for either one of them to win or lose. Hendricks has stated since before he won the belt that he doesn’t care who he fights and part of the benefit of being champion is that he no longer has to play the game of calling out opponents or trying to land big fights.
He gets to sit back and watch this fight as a very intrigued fan and whoever is left standing when July 26 is over is the contender Hendricks will start to prepare for when he defends his title for the first time later this year.
"I don’t care. If Robbie Lawler wins, cool, I get to face Robbie Lawler at 100-percent that’s kind of exciting to me. If Matt Brown wins, I get to train for somebody new, I get to develop some different skills. Either way, I’m happy," Hendricks said. "I’ve never been a person to pick fights, or sat down and said this is who I want to fight. My job is to fight not to negotiate. Whoever they pick, all I need to know is when and where so I can know when to make weight and who to train for."