First-time challenger Hendricks dismisses advantage of St. Pierre's 13 UFC title bouts

Saturday night will mark the 13th time Georges St. Pierre has competed in an Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title bout.

He has defended his belt eight straight times and taken on all of the best challengers the 170-pound division has had to offer.

Don’t tell his opponent, Johny Hendricks, about St. Pierre having some sort of edge in experience heading into their UFC 167 headlining bout at the MGM Grand, however.

On a conference call Monday, Hendricks was quick to dismiss any suggestion that fighting for the UFC belt for the first time put him at a disadvantage.

“I’ve been under the lights since my freshman year of high school. I was under the lights in every (wrestling match) in college. The spotlight doesn’t get much more than that,” said Hendricks, a four-time All-American and two-time national champion at Oklahoma State. “I’ve been competing my whole life. Who cares about the spotlight? Who cares about all this other crap? I’m fighting a man, Georges St. Pierre.”

That man just happens to be one of the best fighters in UFC history. St. Pierre has been on a dominant run, having rarely been truly tested in winning 11 straight fights since a stunning first-round knockout loss to Matt Serra in 2007.

One of the most impressive aspects of his streak has been St. Pierre’s ability to outwrestle some of the most-decorated amateur wrestlers in the division despite having never competed in the discipline himself before starting MMA.

None have been quite as good as Hendricks on the mat, but Hendricks doesn’t plan on taking St. Pierre down to the ground. He wants to use his wrestling to thwart St. Pierre’s takedowns in an effort to keep the fight standing long enough to land his feared left hand and try to end the fight with one punch.

“We know he’s very good at changing levels and getting takedowns,” Hendricks said. “I feel if I prevent that, it’s in my favor because I know I have the power to finish the fight, and that’s what I want.”

St. Pierre insists he is prepared not only for Hendricks’ power, but all aspects of his game.

“I’m ready for it. I’m not scared of it. Most likely, the chances are yes, I’ll be hit,” St. Pierre said. “People talk about his left hand, but Johny’s a very well-rounded fighter. He’s got a lot more than that. I’m not focused on one thing, I’m focused on everything he has. It’s like an exam. When you’re in school and you study for an exam, you’re going to be very confident.”

■ PETTIS INJURED — UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis injured his knee in training and has been forced to pull out of a scheduled title defense against Josh Thomson.

The announcement has forced the reshuffling of a pair of cards.

The title bout between Pettis and Thomson had been scheduled to headline the UFC on Fox 9 card in Sacramento, Calif., on Dec. 14.

With that network card in need of a new main event, the flyweight title bout between Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson has been moved into that slot.

Benavidez and Johnson had originally been slated to fight in the main event of “The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale” card at Mandalay Bay on Nov. 30.

A lightweight bout between Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz has been promoted to the main event slot for the Nov. 30 card.

Thomson was named as Pettis’ opponent when it was clear top lightweight challenger T.J. Grant would not be able to fight due to lingering effects from a concussion.

It’s not yet known whether it will be Thomson or Grant getting the next shot at Pettis when he is healthy.

■ MANUWA IN FOR LITTLE NOG — Unbeaten English prospect Jimi Manuwa was announced as the next opponent for top light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson for the March 8 card in London.

Manuwa replaces Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, whose string of injuries continued with yet another setback.

Gustafsson is expected to earn a rematch with champion Jon Jones with a victory, provided Jones gets by Glover Teixeira.

There was a groundswell of support for Daniel Cormier to get the nod to fight Gustafsson in what would be Cormier’s first fight at 205 pounds. UFC president Dana White cited the fact that having Cormier make his first weight cut in a foreign country would not be an ideal situation.

Cormier encountered medical issues cutting weight for the Olympics as a wrestler and was forced to miss the 2008 Games after finishing fourth in 2004. He recently decided to drop from heavyweight to light heavyweight because his good friend and training partner Cain Velasquez has the heavyweight belt.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.