Friday was UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre’s first venture into an American football stadium and he started at the top.
The champion (24-2) participated in an open workout and media session at AT&T Stadium with challenger and Dallas resident Johny Hendricks in preparation for the Nov. 16 pay-per-view title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“It’s the first time in my life in an American football stadium,” said St-Pierre, a French-Canadian from Quebec. “It’s amazing. It’s a great place. I can see it’s a legend’s place and I feel the energy. It’s a building that you walk in and you feel like, ‘Wow.’”
The real goose bumps, however, were on the body of the UFC’s No. 1 welterweight contender, Hendricks, as he made a homecoming stop to wrap up the fight’s promotional tour.
A native of Ada, Okla., Hendricks (15-1) wrestled for Oklahoma State before joining the ranks of UFC and relocating to Dallas. He said while he wasn’t a Metroplex sports fan growing up, he has come to love the teams around the area, including the Rangers and the Cowboys, being just a short drive away from his home.
Walking out of the tunnel and onto the 50-yard line where a platform was set up for the workout, Hendricks said the adrenaline rush was the same as preparing for a championship fight.
“To come home and finish this tour in my hometown and to see that we have some great fans, I love it,” Hendricks said. “It couldn’t be a better ending to anything.”
After witnessing the Dallas Cowboys’ home firsthand, with the crowd of several hundred that came to watch the workouts, St-Pierre said he almost wishes the fight could have been booked for Arlington instead of Las Vegas.
“It would be a historical moment,” St-Pierre said. “I want to do the biggest thing possible and I would love to have fought Johny here. It would have been amazing, even in his hometown. We’re fighting in Vegas, which is fine, but it would have been awesome.”
The fight is billed to be one of St-Pierre’s toughest title defenses, it being his ninth straight, with seven out of the eight going the full five rounds. While Hendricks has never gone five rounds, he knows he is one fight away from a championship belt. He said the fight means everything to him.
That didn’t stop him from dreaming ahead for a minute Friday as he looked around AT&T Stadium.
“Yeah, once I get that belt around my waist, I’d love to do a title defense here,” Hendricks said. “That’s one thing I’m going to be pushing really hard for, because MMA is growing here and it’s getting bigger and bigger, and hopefully in the near future we have a place here in Dallas.”