Q&A with Former Cowboy Johny HendricksOctober 25, 2012
STILLWATER—Former Oklahoma State standout and MMA fighter Johny Hendricks has been training with Cowboy wrestling this week for his upcoming fight on Nov. 17. We sat down with Hendricks Wednesday before practice to talk about OSU, national titles and UFC.
What’s your relationship like with OSU?
“My relationship with OSU is that I wrestled here for five years and started for four. I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Smith and the other coaches here. You can’t get this kind of training anywhere. I have a lot of deep roots here and it’s nice that I can come back here and be able to train for upcoming fights.”
What’s your favorite moment as a Cowboy?
“My favorite OSU moment is probably the last title we got as a team and also when five of us won individual titles. Those are definitely two high moments. You’ve got five guys in the finals and we all win. Just getting to experience that with more than just yourself and celebrate a team title with everyone is pretty sweet.”
What was it like winning four NCAA titles while you were wrestling at OSU?
“Being here for those four titles was awesome. The first one, I was a freshman, and I was up in the stands watching. It was pretty sweet to get that first one and to know that I got to help wrestle with those guys. The second one came when I was actually competing and getting points for the team title. That was something that is hard to explain because you work so hard as a team to get there. For it to finally come together and get those titles is pretty impressive. It only comes around once a year, and you only have four years to get that accomplished. And the fact that we did that, words really can’t explain it.”
What’s it like watching former teammates Zack Esposito and Coleman Scott have so much success in the wrestling world?
“I love it. When Coleman won the bronze at the Olympics this summer, I was probably as excited as he was because I know what it takes to get to the Olympics and what it takes to get a medal. Even though I didn’t do it, I was still probably as proud as he was. Seeing Coleman and Zack here coaching – I still give them a hard time because I still see them as my teammates. I also listen to them because they’re in here more than I am. I know wrestling, but if they give me advice, I take it. We can still bounce ideas off each other. It’s amazing watching them do all this stuff.”
What do you think about this year’s team?
“This year’s team is looking good. I’m wrestling with a lot of them. They’re young, but I think I have high hopes for them. I really think a couple of those guys could be sleepers because they’re freshmen. I think this year, they have a team that can win it.”
What attracted you to MMA?
“It was a tough decision. I lost my senior year match, and prayed about it for a little bit. I was wondering what else there was for me to do. I still wanted to compete, but I didn’t know if I wanted to go to the Olympics or go get a job. My manager asked me if I wanted to be an MMA fighter, and I wasn’t sure. I tried it, but didn’t like it the first time. I came back and prayed about it some more. We flew out to Vegas, and I trained it. I got knocked out and woke up wanting to do it. I guess that was me wanting to overcome adversity. Once I got knocked, I decided I didn’t want that to happen to me again. I made the switch over, and it’s been a good career choice for me so far.”
What did you learn from your time at OSU that has carried over into your MMA career?
“The stuff I learned is how to train and what you can train through. Being in this room for five years was definitely the experience of a lifetime. Through any injury you learn how your body is going to work through it to overcome it, and you learn when you need to take a step back. Coach Smith knows people’s bodies, and he starts to help you learn your own. Whenever something happens you know when you can push through it or when you need to take a day off. That’s what Coach wants. He wants his wrestlers to be able to recognize that. In MMA, some people may take a step back too soon. Through my training at Oklahoma State, I know that I can work around minor injuries.”
Where did the nickname Bigg Rigg come from?
“I drive an F350 and it’s a dually. I put some bumpers on it, and one of my friends said it looked like a big rig. My coach, Mark Layman, always said I hit like a mad truck. So, he started calling me Bigg Rigg, who hits like a mad truck. I didn’t want to claim it for my John Fitch fight. They asked if I had a nickname, and Mark Layman told them and it stuck.”
What’s the story behind your beard?
“I started about three years ago. I had a fight, and I felt like crap after. It was hard. Injuries were happening, and I just didn’t want to shave. I kept telling myself that I have something I need to accomplish; don’t shave until the fight. My coach told me not to shave before the fight but to keep it until after the fight. I shaved it after my fight, and all the soreness and all the injuries that happened throughout the camp, came back to me. It was like a mental block. Now, it tells me whenever I wake up that I have something to accomplish, and it’s to win the fight. As soon as I finish a fight, I go back to my hotel room and shave it off.”
What is the key to beating Martin Kampmann on Nov. 17?
“We used to train together, and he’s a tough guy. He’s beatable. He’s going to be a guy that you have to finish. You just can’t hurt him. You have to destroy him. That’s something that I’m willing to do. I need to go out there no matter what and get my hand raised.”