UFC 103: "Franklin vs. Belfort" took a big blow last week when it was announced that Mike Swick would no longer be able to compete against Martin Kampmann in a number one contender qualifier matchup, thanks to a "Quick" concussion suffered during training.
In a stacked welterweight division that includes contenders Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, Josh Koscheck and more, champion Georges St. Pierre has soundly defeated everyone he’s faced and in the process eliminated potential challengers to his title.
Swick and Kampmann, with a combined 29-4 record inside the Octagon and who are both undefeated in their campaigns at 170 lbs, were two of the few welterweights remaining with a legitimate claim as a top division contender.
Coupled with the fact that both fighters exhibit riveting standup games, the loss of this exciting matchup means the division truly lacks a viable contender to GSP’s coveted belt, at least for now. Luckily, with "Rush" reportedly on the sidelines until early 2010 nursing injuries, the division has several months to flesh things out.
The show must go on, as they say, and with that in mind, Kampmann now readies himself to face an alternate opponent at UFC 103 in the British counterpuncher, Paul "Semtex" Daley. At 21-8-2, the Cage Rage welterweight champion will be making his UFC debut on Saturday, September 19 opposite "The Hitman," which is no longer expected to determine the number one contender spot.
While Kampmann admits he was disappointed in the news, citing that Swick was the "fight (he) wanted," he sees Daley as a "good, tough opponent" who he looks forward to fighting. In fact, in preparing for either opponent, Kampmann sees the two fighters as fairly similar, although he admits they have different weaknesses — such as on the ground, which accounts for five of Daley’s eight losses.
"I’m not scared to go in and strike with him," Kampmann said. "I think that could be a great fight … but I think I’ll probably have a bigger edge on the ground, so if I get an opportunity to take him down, I’ll probably take it. That’s probably his weakness, and I’m in there to win it."
"The Hitman" himself has a solid mix of victories via knockout (7) and submission (5), having only gone to a decision twice in his 17-fight professional career.
And while he’s looking for the win, Kampmann holds no preconceived notion that a win here will secure him a title shot, unlike a win over Swick would have.
"I don’t expect it to be a number one contendership fight anymore," Kampmann said. "Daley’s a tough guy, but he don’t have the same recognition as Swick does. I still think beating Daley would be great, but Swick’s got the bigger name. … I don’t think (the UFC) would give Daley a title shot if he beats me, ‘cause he’s brand new to the UFC and nobody knows him yet. But I know he’s a tough guy, so I gotta watch out for him."
Regardless, it’s not something "The Hitman" loses sleep over, preferring instead to take it one fight at a time.
"I wasn’t worried about a title shot anyway, because I had to beat Swick first anyway," he said. "But I’ll come to beat up Daley instead, and we’ll take it from there and see where it puts me."
The Denmark native first got his start fighting in amateur Thai boxing, amateur boxing and amateur mixed martial arts shows back in Europe, before coming Stateside to train with his buddy, Mike Pyle.
He soon began training regularly with Pyle, Randy Couture, Gray Maynard, Tyson Griffin, Jay Hieron and John Alessio, among others, who would eventually help form Xtreme Couture.
Kampmann, then studying toward a degree in engineering, eventually made his UFC debut with a submission (rear naked choke) victory over middleweight Crafton Wallace at Ultimate Fight Night 6, back in August 2006. He followed it up with a unanimous decision victory over Thales Leites, after which Kampmann opted to postpone his university studies in order to move to the States and train full-time.
After his third UFC victory — this one over Drew McFedries via submission (arm triangle choke) — Kampmann was scheduled to face former middleweight champion Rich Frankin at UFC 72. A win would have likely propelled him into title contention at 185 lbs against kingpin Anderson Silva, only a devastating knee injury suffered during training forced Kampmann out of the fight.
"I think it was Tyson’s big butt that fell down on my knee while we were wrestling," Kampmann recalled. "It popped my kneecap out to the side and my leg hyper-extended … I tore my LCL, and I tore my ACL, and my meniscus got fucked up too."
The injury could have spelled the end to many an athlete’s career and forced Kampmann into a 16-month layoff from which he slowly but surely rehabilitated his leg.
"The time off was absolutely terrible," Kampmann said, noting the time away was "the worst time of my life." Despite a careful rehabilitation process that concluded some 18 months ago, he admits his knee is still not what it used to be, saying, "My knee, it’s good, I can train 100% … but it still don’t feel like the other one. It still makes some squeaky noises in the morning."
When he finally did make his return to the Octagon, Kampmann secured a quick win over veteran Jorge Rivera at UFC 85, but struggled against Nate Marquardt in his next outing at UFC 88, succumbing to a first-round TKO loss — his first since 2004 to Andrei Semenov, which was due to a cut. The loss prompted his move to welterweight, something he’d considered for awhile.
"I’ve been used to never really cutting any weight back home and I was always doing good, but over here, everyone was cutting weight. We had some ‘55ers who, when they were off-season, they were walking around heavier than me when I was fighting ’85."
After his welterweight debut — a second-round TKO victory over Alexandre Barros at UFC 93 — Kampmann faced perhaps the toughest challenge of his career in the last man to hold the WEC welterweight strap, Carlos Condit, at Ultimate Fight Night 18: "Condit vs. Kampmann."
The hard-fought split decision victory (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) helped establish Kampmann as one of the premiere welterweights in the world. But when the UFC offered Kampmann a fight against Canadian fighter T.J. Grant, Kampmann turned it down, saying he’d prefer a better-known fighter.
"I felt I wanted to fight some guys who had some name recognition to keep pushing up the ladder. I felt a win against T.J. Grant wouldn’t really do anything for me. I think it was kind of a lose-lose situation. No disrespect to T.J. Grant, ‘cause I think he’s a tough dude too, but (the fight) didn’t really intrigue me at all."
The refusal prompted criticism from Swick, who told Fight Magazine. "The only reason you turn down a fight is if you’re afraid you are going to lose."
Now Kampmann has a question for Swick: "So why’s he turning down me then?" hinting that a concussion suffered nearly three weeks out shouldn’t keep the two from facing one another. Still he hopes they can meet up at some point down the road.
Regarding the reigning champion, St. Pierre, Kampmann breaks him down this way: "He’s very, very tough, a real good fighter. I think he’s been relying mostly on his wrestling abilities lately in his recent fights. But his wrestling is really good … He’s the champ for a reason."
Check out the complete interview as well as the entire Pro MMA Radio archive with host Larry Pepe here.