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Johny Hendricks MMA Champ Eager To Return To Ring And Defend UFC Title

Though he has reached the pinnacle of his sport, mixed martial artist Johny Hendricks still feels he has a lot left to accomplish. The 30-year-old member of Oklahoma's Otoe-Missouria tribe is the current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight champ. Before getting into the pro MMA scene in 2007, Hendricks was an accomplished wrestler. He was a four-time all-American while he was at Oklahoma State University and won back-to-back NCAA championships in 2005 and 2006.

"I want to hold onto that sucker for as long as I can," Hendricks told ICTMN of his welterweight belt.

He won the coveted title in March with a victory over Robbie Lawler at UFC 171, an event that was staged in Dallas. Hendricks was able to get a victory in that fight despite the fact he entered the bout nursing an arm injury. He aggravated the injury in his match with Lawler and had to have surgery to repair a torn bicep in his right arm soon after.

Since his recovery, Hendricks has resumed some training in the gym, but is still about two weeks away from receiving his anticipated medical clearance from his Texas-based doctor for full contact workout sessions. "It feels great," Hendricks said about his arm. "There are days where it feels sore, but it should feel like that. I would say it's 95 percent where it should be."

In the meantime, Hendricks is eyeing his return to the sport. He anticipates his next fight will be at the UFC event, which is set for January 3 in Las Vegas. Though contracts have yet to be signed, it's pretty much a given that Hendricks' comeback fight will be a rematch with Lawler. "I'm 99 percent sure it's him," Hendricks said. "I think so, but it's hard to tell. There's so many other guys that could do something to take it away."

Courtesy Johny Hendricks

Hendricks is also keen to face a number of other opponents in the future. "There's four or five guys that are running through the division right now," he said.

Despite the fact he registered a unanimous decision over Lawler in March, Hendricks faced an extremely tough test, and he's eager for another shot. "I want to go in there healthy," said Hendricks. "And I want to correct some things he was able to do."

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"I think I ate too many shots," he said, adding an obvious goal is to get hit less in a future bout with Lawler.

Like all followers of the sport, Hendricks is unsure whether he will ever get another crack at former UFC champ Georges St-Pierre. The 33-year-old Canadian vacated his title this past December when he announced he was taking an indefinite leave from the sport.

Hendricks and St-Pierre squared off in November 2013 in Las Vegas. St-Pierre was awarded a split decision in that controversial bout.

The match was controversial because many observers, including UFC president Dana White, declared that Hendricks was the better fighter that night, and should have been awarded the win. Hendricks welcomes another bout with St-Pierre, but if it did not materialize, he’d accept that too.

"If he doesn't come back I don't think it will hurt my legacy," said Hendricks, whose record is 16-2 (MMA) and 11-2 (UFC).

Besides looking to better his UFC record, now that he's reconnected with his roots Hendricks is also hoping to be an inspiration to Native Americans.

"I can help people shoot for the stars and be a leader and show them they can go far," he said. "The sky’s the limit."