Road To UFC 167: Johny Hendricks On Training, Nutrition & Mindset

A Champion prepares for years while no one is watching.

No roaring crowds to push you past the pain. There’s not even a hint of money or fame pulling you through yet another sweat-drenched workout. It’s all passion and heart. It’s just you verses the matt, you verses the punching bag or more importantly, you looking back at the mirror asking “Did you give it all you had today?” And you can’t lie to a mirror.

For Johny Hendricks those years of sweat are soon to pay their rewards… a shot at the World Title. It’s a shot he doesn’t take it lightly. He’s got a plan and reason for winning. He hasn’t just started preparing for this fight in the last few months. He’s spent his entire life getting ready for it. You’re about to learn the secrets of a Champion… so pull up a chair, buckle up and take notes. Coach Hendricks is about to lay out his secrets to success––on a silver platter.

The first thing I do every morning when I wake up is run 3 ½ miles.

DY: How do you get your game face on and start your training day?

JH: The first thing I do every morning when I wake up is run 3 ½ miles. This fight is a little different than the rest so we’re trying to get my cardio to the max which is now hard. You know, my body loves to run so I’ve got to make myself do it. Does that make sense?

DY: Absolutely, this is a big fight for you and you have to have you’re conditioning dialed in. Now, have you always done the morning run?

JH: No when I was wrestling I would do my runs at night because in college we’d have wrestling practice at 6:30 in the morning. In college you’re recruited to be an athlete. We’d practice 30 to 40 hours a week PLUS all our school work.

DY: That takes real discipline. When you first started in MMA was there some other fight or martial art training?

JH: No I didn’t know anything. I wasn’t going to be a fighter. I liked watching but my nature is… I’m not a mean guy per say. I was the guy who would always try to break up fights. When I first got into the fight world I was really nervous because I didn’t know if I’d get destroyed.

Now that I’m more experienced whenever I step into the Octagon it’s all enjoyment.

DY: Let’s talk about that. What is your mindset going into a fight… Is it anger? Is it fear?

Johny HendricksJH: Now that I’m more experienced whenever I step into the Octagon it’s all enjoyment. I don’t know how to explain it. Getting punched in the face doesn’t bother me. The fear of losing scares me but it doesn’t rule my life. My thought process is if I’m going to win––the Good Lord willing I’m going to win. If I’m going to lose––the Good Lord wanted me to learn something, right? So when I’m mentally running through the fight beforehand, I’m thinking of each move… I’m going to do, this, this, this and this technique. So I don’t get nervous. I just think if I win… AWESOME. If I lose I think… crap how do I make it better?

DY: That’s a great philosophy. What motivates you daily in your training when you’re not preparing for a specific fight?

JH: Well my first motivation is the idea that someone else might be training. Even  when there isn’t a fight to train for, I may be attending a camp or in many cases I’m running a camp. When I run a camp, I have to be my own coach. I had to figure out how to do single leg, double leg, high crotch takedowns and literally every basic move on my own without a coach looking over my shoulder.

So I’d drill them 1000’s of times. For instance, I would drill my high crotch takedowns… I don’t know possibly 1000 times a summer. My single leg takedowns… 1000 times a summer. Double leg takedowns… 1000 times a summer. Every move gets drilled and drilled over and over. Just because of all the people I was showing these to, in return it helped me get better. I got more fluid, more comfortable with my shots and more competent.

I love what I do.

DY: It’s like you’re seeking perfection on every move, yet never being quite satisfied. Are these all out gut busting training sessions?

JH: I love what I do. So even when I would take time off, it’s not really time off.  I would still train but I would go at it maybe with only 30% intensity. I don’t always go all out. I may say to myself, I want to work these 4 or 5 techniques. I would tell my coaches “hey these are the techniques I feel I need to improve. I would say I don’t want to do it hard, I want to learn them and get them fine-tuned. I want to learn the technique to the best of my ability because when I get into a fight, I want to have it perfected.

DY: So you’re lowering the intensity while you’re perfecting the technique?

JH: Yes because if I lower the intensity, 3 things occur. First, I’m not going to rush it.  Second, I’m not going to power or muscle my way through it. Third, my body learns at a slower pace. So it get’s locked in my memory to the point when I can think; “Awesome, I’ve got that.” Then, once I get that familiar with it and get to camp and start adding in power and speed, it’s already locked in. You never know what opening you’re going to get in a fight. Your opponent leaves and opening and you have to react in a split second.

I’m fighting for a World Title!” How exciting is that! You know what I mean?

DY: That seems to work well for you. Great insight Johny. Okay so let’s talk about your opponent. How is your training going leading up to this fight with GSP?

JH: I can’t complain so far. Everyone wants to say great. It is great. I’m also tired, it’s tough you know what I mean? It can be a grind, if I’m going to be truthful. That’s true in training for any fight though. If it were comfortable thousands and thousands of guys would be at this level. There are times when I wake up and say “Son of a Gun I’ve got to do it again today??? But you know what this is what I love, then you say; “Wait a minute, I’m fighting for a World Title!” How exciting is that! You know what I mean?

DY: Right I get it! You turn the volume up on your enthusiasm by changing your self-talk and your thinking.

JH: That’s what I love about individual sports. It’s probably the same way with Tennis or Golf or sports like that. Whenever I wake up and have a bad morning, then often I can turn it around and end up having the best day of camp ever. Then there are other days when I wake up feeling amazing and end up seeming like I can’t get anything right. So it’s all about facing these adversities before I even get to the Octagon. That’s what makes me excited to do what I do––facing adversities.

Johny Hendricks

You can’t start believing in your opponents hype…

DY: That’s the heart of being a Champion at anything right there! Doing what needs to be done when no one is cheering. It’s just you in the gym at war. Tell us what makes GSP such a strong opponent?

JH: I look at it this way. He’s just another person. Know what I mean? Yeah he’s the reigning Champion. Yeah he’s done great things. But the way that I think is this, he hasn’t done them to me. He’s never faced me. Whenever we get in there, George St. Pierre has got to have his best day and Johny Hendricks has got to have his best day. Whoever wants it more holds the power to get his hand raised in victory. That’s what it comes down to. For anyone the minute you start believing in you own hype, you’re done. On the other hand, you can’t start believing in your opponents hype… that would also finish you.

DY: I love that philosophy. Alright let’s talk about your nutrition. How does what you eat affect your success as a fighter?

JH: I’ve learned that nutrition is one of those things that most athletes think they know about and get wrong. I use Mike Dolce for my diet, he’s my nutritionist. I’ve also learned a great deal from my sponsor SAN Nutrition and changed my approach because of it.

DY: What changes did Mike and SAN make in your nutrition and what have you learned?

JH: I’d say that the biggest thing is looking at food and asking does this help my body’s performance, does it make me a better athlete or does this food stand in my way and hinder my body’s performance? I never really looked at it that way before. I was aware of basic nutrition but now I’m fighting for a World Title! I really never thought about the fact that food could hold me back. Cookies, deserts, candy, chips boxed cereal and all that junk could actually affect my mental clarity, energy as well as muscle and fat levels. I knew they weren’t healthy but this was a new way of thinking about it.

DY: It’s an entirely different game, one based on actually fueling the body, isn’t it?

JH: Exactly. So Mike had me start eating around a plan would actually improve my chances of getting where I need to be. Thanks to Mike and SAN, my nutrition plan is now based around foods and supplements that enhance how my body performs. You know what I mean?

DY: Can you be more specific. What foods make up your base?

JH: Fresh foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, whole grain breads and cereals.

DY: Can you give us a typical day of eating?

JH: Understand that this changes all the time leading up to the fight. I typically walk around weighing in at 215 and then drop to 170 for a fight. Mike actually has me lower my protein as we get closer to the fight and he actually changes my entire diet every three days. That said, here is a typical days eating. Do not try this on your own.

Johny Hendricks

Meal – (Breakfast) Breakfast Bowl, 1/2 cup Oat Bran (dry measure), 1 cup Blueberries, 1 cup Strawberries, 1/3 cup Raisins, 3 TBSP Hemp Seeds, 3 TBSP Chia Seed, 1 TBSP Almond Butter, Cinnamon (to taste), 1 cup Green Tea. Add all the dry ingredients to a bowl, boil water in a kettle, pour over top and mix well adding water until it reaches my desired consistency. I add the almond butter to the bottom after.

Pre WorkoutSAN Fierce Domination

Post Workout Shake – 1 Scoop SAN RawFusion Protein, 1 Scoop SAN Performance Glutamine, 16 Ounces Purified Water.

Meal – (Lunch), Egg Scramble, 4 whole eggs, 1 large handful fresh spinach, 1⁄2 fresh tomato, 1⁄4 fresh onion, 1/4 red Pepper, 2 slices organic Turkey Bacon, 1 fresh apple or pear, 1 cup Green Tea

Snack – (PICK ONE), 1 apple and 2 TBSP almond butter –OR-, 1 orange and ½ avocado.

1 cup green tea.

Pre Workout  – SAN Fierce Domination

Post Workout Shake – 1 Scoop SAN RawFusion Protein, 1 Scoop SAN Performance Glutamine, 16 Ounces Purified Water.

Meal – Dinner, Lean & Green, 8oz wild caught meat, fresh fish or free-range bird, 2 handfuls dark green veggies (asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach), 1 handful colored veggies (peppers, onions, squash, carrots)

Dolce diet smoothie. In a blender, combine the following ingredients.  Add at least 16oz water but feel to add additional water if needed for desired texture.

  • 1 whole carrot
  • ½ cucumber
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 handful kale
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 handful frozen blueberries
  • 3 handfuls red grapes (frozen the night before works best)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • 3 tbsp hemp seeds

SAN NutritionDY: Looking at that eating plan I see that supplements do they play a role?

JH: Absolutely they do! SAN Nutrition is my sponsor. When I was approached, I checked them out. I was impressed with the science behind their products. I’ve learned; there are certain nutrients, you just cannot get in sufficient quantities from food alone, especially for a hard training athlete. The MDR set by the government does not apply to a serious athlete. I always have and still take a good multi-vitamin supplement. SAN has an excellent multi called Dr. Feel Good. You have to ensure you’re getting everything you need.

DY: What other supplements do you feel are useful?

JH: Remember. I’m training 30 to 40 hours a week. Recovery becomes a critical issue. You know what I mean? I love L-Glutamine and would not be without it. SAN’s got a great product called Performance Glutamine. I really think it helps keep me sharp mentally and curbs sugar cravings. It also helps with repair and recovery.

I do use a SAN Protein Supplement called RawFusion which tastes great! And I always use a pre workout supplement called FIERCE DOMINATION… man this stuff is like rocket fuel.

You can go to their website at and download their special report and catalogue for their Titanium Series. Oh… one last supplement, SAN’s 3X Fish Fats … good for the heart and good for mental clarity.

Also check out Mike Dolce’s website at He’s got a lot of tools for athletes to help with their own nutrition needs.

DY: That’s all great advice Johny. I know every athlete needs specialized nutrition especially in today’s competitive environment. Okay let’s switch gears and get into some fun stuff. How did you get the moniker ‘Bigg Rigg’?

JH: I got an F350 with Ranch Hand Bumpers on the front and back and everyone started saying “Man it’s like you’re driving a Big Rig everywhere. Then Mark Laymen started saying I hit like a Mack Truck so they started saying; “Johny ‘Big Rigg’ Hendricks hits like a Mack Truck.”

I have been laying people out.

DY: That’s great. So as a high school and college wrestler you don’t really get any strike training so when and how did you introduce striking into your training?

JH: Well see my Grandfather and Grandpa on both sides of my family were Golden Gloves boxers in the Navy during World War 2. I have boxing in my blood. You know what I mean? No one else has both Granddads as boxers. It doesn’t happen too often. I always wanted to learn striking, I really did but my Mom and Dad didn’t want me to. As soon as I got into MMA I started hitting and my boxing coach said: “You hit hard, you’ve learn to punch!” I said no I’ve never learned to punch. He said: “Wait until we fix your punch.”

DY: So I guess he helped you fix it?

JH: Well you know he said: “As soon as you get your punch to where it’s crisp and solid and you learn how to use your body when you punch, you’re going to be knocking people out.”  Well here I am, now that I’m starting to learn how to use my body and my energy more efficiently and… I have been laying people out.

You know the beard is me.

DY: That very cool. Okay is the beard for good luck?

JH: You know the beard is me. If I walked in clean shaven people don’t even know me. When I have the beard––people walk by me and say, that’s Johny Hendricks, that’s Johny Hendricks. It’s crazy, when I clean shave and people don’t even know me. So what I’m going to start doing now is I’m going to start doing more without facial hair. I’m always going to fight with a beard, I’m not going to lie, it’s my trademark and people say it even looks scary but it really sucks in the summer in Texas getting up over 100 degrees. I do it because in 2008, December 3rd, my fourth fight I grew out my first beard. I was going to shave it but Mark Laymen said Johny why don’t you grow it out? He talked me into it. All of a sudden people started calling me the happy bearded man.

DY: So it became a trademark by accident. What piece of advice would you give to young up and coming fighters?

JH: Well there are a few things. First, get that college education. There are so many unknowns in the fight World. You don’t know if you’re going to be a good fighter, you don’t know if you’ll get the right coaching. Get that education––it’s something no one can take away from you. You’ll set your future up for success no matter what you end up doing.

Second, I would also say if you could sort of––how do I say this (there’s a pause)

––fight your friend and see how you react. Ha, ha. That is what fighting is. Whoever can stay the coolest and calmest is going to win. I found that the more laid back I could be in my fights, the more energy I can conserve to do my best.

DY: That’s a really important point. Great insight! It’s almost like a quiet confidence. What is your college degree in?

JH: My degree is in secondary education, I was planning on being a college teacher and coach.

Because I said I’d never fight and here I am.

DH: That’s awesome. Do you think you might do that in the future?

JH: Here’s the thing, I’m not going to close any doors. Something I told myself a long time ago is I’m not going to narrow myself to… I’m just going to do this or I’m just going to do that. Because I said I’d never fight and here I am.

DY: Yes we all find ourselves on roads we never expected. How long are your typical workouts?

JH: If I’m not fighting, I still workout twice a day. The only difference is, the intensity is very low. I’m talking about 30% to 40.

DY: And how long are those workouts?

JH: About an hour to an hour and a half.

DY: Does that include strength training and conditioning or is that just fight training?

JH: I do about 3 hours a day of just fight training… nothing else.

DY: What about conditioning and strength training?

JH: Conditioning maybe about 2 hours a week in off season and then maybe about 3 hours of lifting a week with my strength coach Andrian Ramirez.

DY: Tell us about a few people that have been a great influence on you?

JH: Well of course I like to say I always have to give the glory to God because he’s blessed me to be able to fight for a living so I’m very grateful for that. There’s my Mom and Dad, Nancy and Keven Hendricks who taught me good life values. Dad was very tough on me and that gave me a good work ethic. I may not have liked it much at the time but it’s hard to deny the long-term impact. Then, there’s my wife Christina and my 3 daughters; Abri age 4, Adli age 2 and Avin who is 4 months. They keep me grounded.

I also had coaches that helped me out so much. Hardell Moore who wrestled at Oklahoma State. Shawn Bateman, helped me out. Coach John Smith (OSU) Oklahoma State University and my High School coach Darren Huff. They all had a great influence on me and my success as a fighter and as a person. You know what I mean?

DY: I do Johny. This has been a real pleasure––good success on your upcoming fight!

JH: The pleasure was mine, David. Thank you. I’d also like to give a special thanks to KOreps, Oren Hodak and TTD who have aligned me with some great companies such as SAN Nutrition, Reebok and Bass Pro Shops.

For more information on SAN supplements go to: SAN @ M&S. Be sure to tell them Johny sent you!

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