Sports and controversies go together like Miley Cyrus and women hating on Miley Cyrus. Not all sports controversies or Miley videos involve balls. Not all are very entertaining either.
We'll leave the (yawn) Oklahoma State transgressions to the hacks and pros. Wake me when a program climbs the ranks without breaking a few rules in college football. That's a story, if it exists.
So let's shift gears to the fight world. Former Oklahoma State two-time national wrestling champion Johny Hendricks (15-1) exploded onto the mixed martial arts scene in 2007.
His third pro fight took place in Tulsa under the Xtreme Fighting League banner in 2008. He improved to 3-0 and was immediately called up to the now defunct WEC where he amassed two more victories to reach 5-0 in his young career.
Eleven UFC fights later, he's is set to face long-time UFC champion George St-Pierre for the welterweight champoionship. Needless to say, this will be his stiffest test to date -- GSP has held the title since Hendricks started his career.
First things first, Hendricks would not be in this position today without college wrestling. The Olympic committee recently voted to keep wrestling in the Olympics. These two things are not lost on a guy vying for a different kind of gold these days.
"I couldn't afford to go to college without being that kind of athlete," said Hendricks. "I thought about how many kids would lose that avenue if the Olympic wrestling was not around. It would be a big blow to wrestling."
The Olympic committee's secret ballot vote revealed overwhelming support to keep wrestling with 49 votes. The next closest was baseball-softball with only 24 votes.
When Hendricks declared MMA his career path following his successful collegiate wrestling career, the local media warned of his brash ways. He is just now mixing it up in the media and post-fight interviews the way many predicted he would from the start.
"I was learning a new sport," he said of his early reticence. "You don't want to go in with your head high. It can get knocked down very quickly."
He stayed humble as he entered new territory. He equates the UFC and its fighters to a big pond with big fish. If you are an average fish, you will be gobbled up. Promising careers flame out every day in MMA, where two or three loses against world-class competition can earn you a pink slip.
Hendricks lives in Texas now, close to his Team Takedown teammates. Their head coach and jujitsu instructor Marc Laimon is one of the best in the world at what he does.
Hendricks may have entered the MMA world as a wrestler, but his ground game and striking are what pushed him to the brink of a world championship.
But it was not his electrifying knockouts of Jon Fitch or Martin Kampmann that flipped the switch in his mind. No, it was different types of fighting that showed him he was ready to take on the world's elite.
"I hate losing, but I know that was what turned me around. You are fighting, and fighting, and fighting. I felt like I was never going to break that top ten. Then I lost and the guy that beat me (Rick Story) jumps to the top ten. That really motivated me and turned my life around. The sky is the limit."
The three-round war also proved more to him than the highlight-reel KOs. Fans remember his vicious left-hand rockets to the jaw. He remembers getting his hand raised after a grueling back-and-forth battle for 15 minutes.
"Now the problem is going to be, can I do it for 25 minutes," he said. This will be Hendricks first scheduled five-round fight. This will be St-Pierre's 14th scheduled five-round fight in the UFC.
Wrestling, wrestling, and more wrestling. If you ignore the verbal lobs regarding drug testing between Hendricks and GSP, wrestling seems to be the second most popular topic heading into UFC 167 on November 16 in Las Vegas.
GSP is widely considered the top wrestler in all of MMA. Fans outside of Oklahoma have already crowned him the better wrestler in the matchup.
After raising this topic with Hendricks over the phone, his answer was somewhat shocking. He did not declare shenanigans and promote himself as the superior wrestler. His take was different.
"MMA and wrestling are two separate sports," he said. "Wrestling, I would say, is 100 times harder. My body gets sore doing MMA. But nothing gets me sore as quickly as when I go back to Oklahoma State."
He visits Stillwater with his kids and cannot believe the physical demand he once endured for years.
"I still compete and workout and take care of my body, but it is amazing how much wrestling can break down a body."
His parents live in Tahlequah so he heads up this way a few times a year. Although now with three children, the traveling is a bit more exhausting for him and his wife.
When he does stay in town for a week or so, he calls Apollo's Martial Arts his home gym. And living in Texas has not corrupted his mindset. Make no mistake, Hendricks is an Oklahoman. This is evident all the way down to his fight trunks which are always sponsored by Bass Pro.
"I do want to bring that belt back to Oklahoma. That is my home state. Right now I have to play nice with both states because I live in Texas, but I still have a lot of roots in Oklahoma. That is my goal, to be the first world champion from Oklahoma. That has a nice little ring to it doesn't it?"
Yes it does.
Support Johny Hendricks and watch him take down the French Canadian and capture the gold. Order the pay-per-view with some friends or gather at one of the many sports bars in town broadcasting every UFC event.
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