You don’t have to follow mixed martial arts to know the name Georges St-Pierre. The handsome French Canadian sat atop the UFC’s welterweight division for five years, his crossover appeal earning him endorsements from big-name brands like Google and Bacardi. GSP’s list of vanquished opponents reads like a who’s who of MMA talent, and until last November, St-Pierre, with eight straight title defenses, looked invincible—that is, until Johny Hendricks, an up-and-coming grappler and former All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State, kicked his ass.
GSP won the bout by decision, but photos of a battered St-Pierre at the post-fight press conference, coupled with his abrupt resignation from MMA the following month, suggest it was the toughest of his career—and that the sport might have a new star on its hands.
Hendricks, 30, knew what he was up against with GSP, and trained accordingly. Having never fought five rounds before—the length of a UFC championship fight—Hendricks prioritized cardio conditioning . “I ran four miles every day for about eight weeks [prior to the fight],” he says. To simulate the quick-burst intensity required in combat, Hendricks ran hill sprints as well. He lifted weights three days a week, focusing on presses, cleans, and rowing movements, in addition to practicing boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and wrestling at his old college.
Fortunately for Hendricks, he’s endowed with onepunch knockout power, as evidenced by his demolition of iron-chinned fighter Jon Fitch, who fell like an oak 12 seconds into the first round of their December 2011 contest.
Can you build hands of stone in the gym? Hendricks says the ability to pack a wallop is largely “God given,” although he believes a wrestling background has more transference to punching power than it’s given credit for. “In wrestling, when you’re bent over, you have to explode, off your legs,” he says—and powerful punches demand leg drive. “I learned how to shift it from being bent over to standing up—that’s when my [punching] power explodes.” Hendricks’ 140-pound dumbbell bench presses (he can do five reps) probably help as well.
See Hendricks in action on March 15, when he faces Robbie Lawler for the vacant welterweight title.
Get in Fighting Shape: The UFC Fit program pounds off the pounds
If P90X offers workouts that kick your butt, UFC Fit might knock you out cold. The UFC’s 12-DVD, home-based fitness program aims to give you a fighter’s body in 12 weeks. Still, you don’t have to be in good shape or have aspirations of competing in a cage to undertake it. “It’s a training program for everybody,” says Mike Dolce, designer of UFC Fit , although the workouts are based on the training that Dolce puts his own fighter clients through to prepare for the Octagon.
“If you got done with 90 days of UFC Fit,” says Dolce, “you’d be in shape to compete for five five-minute rounds. Conditioning-wise, strengthwise, and healthwise, you could do it.” Workouts last about 25–45 minutes and feature up to five exercises for five rounds, similar to an MMA match, or 3–4 exercises for eight rounds, combining martial arts techniques with calisthenics and light dumbbell exercises.
UFC Fit comes with three nutrition templates so you can adjust your diet to fit your lifestyle. “It’s not uncommon to lose 40 pounds [in 12 weeks],” says Dolce. Check it out at ufcfit.com.
House of Pain: Bust your gut at UFC Gyms
If you want to follow the UFC Fit program but don’t trust yourself to stick with it at home (or you simply don’t have the space), you can do it in a group setting at UFC Gyms. With close to 100 locations nationwide, the UFC’s branded training centers cater to all fitness fiends who want to improve their health and performance with mixed martial arts—although they also offer plenty of iron and a variety of other training options, including classes that cover aerobics, yoga, and Zumba. You could even potentially train with or alongside pro fighters like UFC legend B.J. Penn. For more info, go to ufcgym.com.