It’s never easy for a fighter to deal with a loss especially when one fights in the very competitive UFC. It’s a “what have you done for me lately” type of business and nobody understands that more than Martin “Hitman” Kampmann.
After being one of the UFC’s top welterweights, Kampmann (17-5) has had to deal with untimely injuries and two very tough back-to-back losses. He spends long days at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas honing his craft and working hard at becoming “Hitman 2.0.” Sure it sounds like a bad action movie title, but constant improvement is what this Dane is about.
However, for your own heath refrain from bringing up the two back-to-back losses because it’s something that still pisses him off. So of course I started the interview with the question, “what do you do to change things up after dealing with two tough losses?”
“I always change things up in my training a little bit every time, but I haven’t changed things up too much even with those two back-to-back losses on my record. To be honest, I think I was robbed in my last fight. Of course there are always things I can change up in my training to improve but I will still make mistakes in every fight I’m in. I strongly believe that I should have had the win in my last fight.”
One thing you get when you talk to the “Hitman” is honesty. He doesn’t sugar coat his answers. After all, this is the fight game and in some ways it’s nice not to get the standard, “I’ve put that loss behind me, I’m moving forward and giving it 110%.” Kampmann will give you the straight goods about his last two bouts and he doesn’t apologize for being candid.
“The Shields fight was the fight I was the most disappointed in my performance. I think I did a lot of things wrong in that fight by doing stupid shit. He did win that fight by humping my leg for as long as he could. I gave that victory away by fighting a bad fight.”
If you think he was pissed about his performance against Shields, you should hear him talk about his last fight against Diego Sanchez back in March at UFC Live on Versus: Kampmann vs. Sanchez. It was one of the best fights of the 2011. It doesn’t matter that he and Sanchez got very large fight of the night bonuses. To Kampmann that loss was highway robbery and you can still hear the frustration in his voice.
“With the Diego fight I made mistakes, but I still beat him up. His face was a wreck afterwards and he still has the scars to prove it. I definitely believe I won that fight and I got the better of him. I would love to avenge any one of those two losses because I think I’m the better fighter and I can beat any of those guys.”
I’ve interviewed Kampmann before and he is usually pretty mild mannered. But you get the sense that the losses still irritate him. Maybe in some ways that is a good thing. Losses are what fuel competitors like Kampmann. When you are a competitive SOB with redemption on your mind it means that sparring partners and future opponents better beware. As the great poet Alice Cooper put it, “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” Next on the docket is a very tough Rick Story (13-4) at UFC 139 this Saturday night in San Jose, California.
Story is no push over. He knocked off six wins in a row in the UFC which included a big win over Thiago Alves. Most recently Story lost a decision to Charlie Brenneman at UFC Live: Kongo vs. Barry back in June. All be it, Story took that fight on one day’s notice after Nate Marquardt got pulled from his fight during the weigh ins. This time around, Story has had time to properly prepare for his opponent. Kampmann believes that the key to beating a guy like Rick Story is not falling into his brawling style of striking.
“I’d love to make it a more technical striking match, but I don’t think that is what he is going to do. I think he is going to want to come in close. I think that is his strength; he’s a strong dude who wants to come in swinging. He might get clipped, but when he’s in the pocket like that he’s dangerous. From a distance though I will be able to pick him apart.”
However, don’t think for a second that he isn’t prepared for Story’s wrestling skill set either.
“He tries to take his opponents to the ground a lot. He is a wrestler by nature. I’m sure he is going to try and take the fight to the ground, but I’m prepared for that. I’m totally ready to counter or stuff the takedown. If it does go to the ground I’m very confident in my Jiu-jitsu skills too.”
He should be confident. Kampmann has a brown belt under the tutelage of BJJ Black Belt Robert Drysdale. The fight could get interesting if Story does get the Denmark native down. But don’t underestimate Kampmann’s wrestling ability either. He feels that is part of his game that has improved the most. But he strongly believes that some wrestlers are too one-dimensional. He harkens back to his fight with Shields once again.
“For the most part wrestlers take people down and lay on them. That is how I lost to Jake Shields. I was kneeing Jake in the face and in the body. I had a solid submission attempt with a choke. He landed one punch on me in that entire fight and he didn’t once try to submit me. He won the fight by getting on top of me and humping my leg. I think the current scoring system favors wrestlers too much. You can punch a guy ten times in the face, but if he takes you down and cuddles with you, they give the round to that guy. It is what it is.”
So he has strong views on the lay and pray style of fighting that seems to becoming more prevalent in today’s mixed martial arts but Kampmann understands that you have to be prepared for that.
“I have been improving on my wrestling so I can adapt to how the fights are being scored. Now days you have to know how to wrestle and so I have been working hard on that. I think I showed improvement in my last fight against Diego. He tried to take me down a lot and I was able to stuff 14 out of 15 takedown attempts. But I got too caught up with busting his face up.”
A win over Rick Story this Saturday night means being relevant again in the welterweight division, and when that happens, Kampmann has a shopping list of opponents he would love to face. Besides a rematch with Sanchez or Jake Shields, one of the guys at the top of his list is another Caesar Gracie stand out in Nick Diaz. You might have heard of him. He’s fighting GSP in February for the welterweight title. Kampmann believes that it should be Carlos Condit’s title shot and not the Stockton California native, Diaz.
“I personally think Carlos Condit got screwed. Nick Diaz has been pretty good at hyping himself up. To be honest, I don’t think Diaz is that good. Anytime he has fought any good wrestlers he has had problems. I think he’s going to lose badly to GSP. Diaz is good at running his mouth and doing his thing…you know…being a punk. I would love to fight Nick Diaz sooner than later. I would absolutely love to fight him somewhere down the line.”
For now he is focused on Rick Story. The losses are in the rear view mirror but as it says, objects are closer than they appear. Some guys need that chip on their shoulder to help take them to the next level. For Martin Kampmann, that edge is a good thing. He will be focused on Saturday night, but behind his power and fortitude will be a year’s worth of frustration that he plans on unleashing on Rick Story at UFC 139.
Trevor Dueck – @tdueckmania