When you picture the elite welterweights in the UFC, Martin Kampmann is always hovering near the top of the division.
The Xtreme Couture fighter has been extremely close to earning a title shot on multiple occasions, but it's just been out of his reach, and the judges haven't been the most helpful.
Following a string of tough decision losses, both hotly contested and controversial to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, "The Hitman" bounced back at UFC 139 against Rick Story, handily winning the final two rounds to get back on track.
Kampmann hasn't been given an easy fight in years and he'd prefer to keep it that way. Thus, when the UFC came calling with former title challenger and perennial top contender Thiago Alves, he graciously accepted a headlining bout.
The Danish-transplant will be taking on Alves this Friday night (March 2, 2012) at UFC on FX 2 in Sydney, Australia and I had an opportunity to speak with him during an appearance on Bloody Elbow Radio. Kampmann spoke about resisting the urge to brawl, having the reach advantage for once and where a victory over Alves would put him in the division.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): They had a three round fight in the main event of the UFC on Fuel TV show between Jake Ellenberger and Diego Sanchez and afterwards, everyone was like, "Why was this three rounds?" Dana White then said that all of those fights are going to be five rounds from now on. Now I'm pretty sure that because your contract says three rounds, it'll stay three rounds but did anyone approach you about potentially moving it to an extra two rounds?
Martin Kampmann: No. Actually, when I signed for the fight, I wasn't sure whether I was fighting for three or five rounds because I heard that all main events were going to be five round fights and then my bout agreement that I signed said we would only be fighting three. I texted Joe Silva just to be sure a couple weeks ago, "How many rounds am I fighting?" and he said, "Three rounds." I later heard that it was only on pay-per-views and FOX for the five rounds but now they're gonna change it. I don't think they're gonna change it for my fight but they're gonna change it for future contracts or whatever.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That's unfortunate because I think a fight like Sanchez-Ellenberger, a fight like you against Thiago Alves, those would be incredible five round fights. It seems like they dropped the ball there a little bit.
Martin Kampmann: Yeah, I'll be honest. I really wanted to see two more rounds when I was watching the fight (between Sanchez and Ellenberger). I thought two more rounds would have been great and five rounds between me and Alves would be really cool. The only problem with it is it's two more rounds that you can get banged up and two more rounds you've got to improve your cardio for. It's definitely tough too. I would have definitely preferred to know more than two weeks in advance if I was fighting five rounds, though.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I have one question about your last fight. It was really good to get a win. That was something you were really hoping to do after two tough decision losses in a row. You said that you were kind of disappointed with winning via decision, that you thought you could have got the finish. What I want to know is, what was it that you could have done against Story that would have helped you get the finish because I thought you put on a terrific performance?
Martin Kampmann: Thank you very much but I really wanted to get the finish because I was tired of getting stricken by the judges. I feel the judges don't see my way and even when the decision against Story got announced, one of the judges had it for Story which was completely ridiculous. I don't know how come they don't seem to like me. I said that I was disappointed because I just really wanted to get that finish and I don't like decisions especially because they don't seem to get my way. I had his back in the last round so maybe I could have got that choke in but my arms were dead tired. They were heavy and I didn't have much left to squeeze with but maybe if I had a little more time. Maybe this, maybe that. I'm happy that I got the win but just disappointed I didn't get the finish.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know that the beginning of that fight, Story got some momentum going but once you shifted to being more technical with your striking and mixing in some takedowns, you really took over. Is it difficult to resist the urge to brawl when you're in a fight like that?
Martin Kampmann: Yeah. Sometimes it's been my weakness in my past. I get hit with a good shot and I'm like, "Fuck this. I'm gonna hit you back!" and then I throw caution to the wind and start swinging. Sometimes it would go the right way for you and sometimes when you go in hot and start swinging and banging, you do get hit yourself too and that can put you in trouble. Also, I was fighting a little more cautious with Story. In the beginning, I got hit with some big shots that I shouldn't have been hit by but I got my composure back and I started being more methodical with my boxing and I also started mixing it up with some takedowns.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Something that I've got a question about. You're fighting in Australia for this event and I read something that Jay Hieron said he had to be CPR certified just to be in your corner. Is that correct?
Martin Kampmann: Yeah, that's true. All my cornermen have ot have a CPR certificate. All the cornermen in Australia. That's a demand they have. It's kind of stupid because that's why they have doctors there for. I mean, you've just got to get that course done and then they'll be good.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is there anything else kind of kooky about fighting in Australia that is special there that you have to get used to?
Martin Kampmann: Ehh, there's some forms you have to fill out, a couple of things and of course I've got to get a work permit so I'm allowed to fight there because it's gonna be work and I'm gonna be taxed over there. There's a lot of smaller things when you fight overseas compared to fighting in the US which makes it a little bit more of a hassle. It's all good, though. It's just a little extra paperwork and UFC has got a bunch of people working on it and that's their whole job. Just take care of visa issues and medical issues and whatever. Actually, when I go out there, we have to do a blood test and physical one more time. Even though we already did it here in the US, all the fighters in Australia have to do it in the last week before the fight which is kind of extra.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Talking about this upcoming fight with Thiago Alves. I kind of see this as more of a technical battle between two of the best technical strikers in the welterweight division. Is that what you see too, at least in the stand-up portion?
Martin Kampmann: Yeah, I think it's definitely going to be a hell of a fight. Thiago Alves is a hell of a striker and I think a lot of this fight is going to take place on the feet. I know Thiago has other skills, you see in his last fight he went for some takedowns and if he tries to take me down, I'll take him down and beat him up on the ground too but I'm expecting a lot of this fight to stay standing.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): If this fight stays standing, how much of a factor do you think your reach advantage will be? He doesn't have the longest arms for punches.
Martin Kampmann: Yeah, I don't have the longest arms either but this is like the first fight where I fought a guy where he's got shorter arms than me so it's gonna be nice for a change to have a reach on an opponent but I don't think it'll be by much. I've got itty bitty T-Rex arms, you know?
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Whenever anybody fights Thiago Alves, I think one of the key things they have to worry about is those leg kicks. Is that just a spacing thing, a footwork thing that you'll have to work with in preparation for those?
Martin Kampmann: Oh, he's definitely got some mean leg kicks. I've just got to check 'em because when you check them, it hurts the guy that's kicking too. That might hold him back a little bit. He's good at setting those leg kicks up with his hands and that's definitely something that I've been working on as well because otherwise you'll be walking out of that fight with sore legs if you walk out at all. I'm prepared for it, though. I'm prepared to counter those and I'm prepared to kick him right back.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're debuting a weight-cut blog on your website. I was checking that out. Is that something you're doing to be more interactive with the fans, showing some preparation for a big fight like this?
Martin Kampmann: Oh, it's something I started. People would ask me when I talked to them and they say, "How do you lose so much weight in such a short time? and blah, blah, blah," so I decided I'd document it and take a picture every week or so and update where my weight was at. I think I started at 195 at the start of my training camp and I was down to 185 and I think I took a picture this morning and I'm gonna upload it to my website. I don't know shit about the webpage stuff but I'll get it up there and people can follow it if they're interested.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I was reading up on some of the interviews you've done before this fight and you said you think one of the biggest advantages you have over Alves is how much more well-rounded you are. He's a guy that's really good at keeping a fight standing if he wants it to, so how do you think you can utilize those extra well-rounded skills you have say on the ground or anything against him?
Martin Kampmann: I'm not taking anything away from Alves. I think he's got good wrestling especially takedown defense. I think he's really hard to hold down. Even when he lost to Story, Story was taking him down and Alves was popping back up. I expect him to be really hard to hold down too. I'm prepared for that as well. That's why I'm saying that a lot of this fight is going to be standing but if I see an opportunity for a takedown, I'm going to take it and I'm going to beat him up on the ground too. I'm expecting a lot of this fight to stay standing.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I usually try to avoid questions about training camps because they're cliche, but this caught my eye. There's been a bit of an exodus of coaches at Xtreme Couture. Gil Martinez, Robert Drysdale and Ron Frazier all left so has that been distracting at all while you're preparing for this big fight?
Martin Kampmann: No, Gil Martinez and Ron Frazier left recently, but Robert Drysdale left a long time ago, a couple years ago I think. He left to go open up his own gym. I still go to Drysdale's as well. I didn't go as much for this camp but he's a great jiu-jitsu instructor. We've got Vinny [Magalhaes] at Xtreme Couture as well and he's a great jitsu instructor too. Like I said, I haven't been focusing that much on jiu-jitsu in a while because Alves is not much of a jiu-jitsu player. He's got good jiu-jitsu, but he usually just uses it to stay out of submissions and get back to his feet. His last fight, he did submit the other guy so I can't take nothing away from him. My primary coaches, I work mostly with Ray Sefo for my striking so it hasn't affecting me at all. The guys will be missed, but they had to do their own thing and do what's best for them.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is a really important fight between you and Thiago Alves especially with some of these big fights going on at 170 lately. How far up does a win put you in the welterweight division right now?
Martin Kampmann: We'll see. I'll leave it up to the UFC but sometimes it's not only if you win, it's how you win. If you win in spectacular fashion, you can definitely get more momentum than if you have a boring fight. We've seen that before when the winner of Thiago Alves and Jon Fitch was promised a title shot and it was kind of a boring fight and they took a different route. You've definitely got to win in impressive fashion and you can sort of take a short cut. It definitely puts me closer. I'd love to fight GSP, of course he's out now and now Condit is the guy now. I had the pleasure of fighting him before and was lucky enough to get the win. Of course I'd love to fight him again and I know he'd love to fight me too and get that loss off his record but right now I've got to focus on Alves. I've got to beat him first and he's a tough guy too so that's where my focus is.
Martin Kampmann: I'd just say it depends how long he's got to way for Georges. That's the "if" that nobody knows. I think that eight or nine months is a long time to wait so if it's eight or nine months, he can definitely take another fight, put a fight in between that but if it's only six months, then maybe he should wait. It's really up to Carlos Condit and it's up to the UFC and it also depends on Georges St. Pierre and how he's coming along with his injury. I've had that knee surgery. I've had that ACL and the LCL where they do open knee surgery too and it's tough, man. I was out for a long time and my knee, to be honest, it's tough to come back from not only physically but mentally as well. It's a mental barrier and for me, it took a while to be confident in my knee and not be scared of re-hurting it. We'll see when he'll be back and it's up to the UFC not Condit.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): My last question for you Martin. When you're picturing victory against Alves, what do you see?
Martin Kampmann: I want to get the finish. I want to go in and I want to beat him up and I want to get the finish. I want to put a beating on Thiago Alves and that's what I'm going to do on March 3rd. (It'll be March 3rd in Australia, March 2nd in the US).
Martin would like to thank the fans supporting him, his gym Xtreme Couture, his training partners, his sponsors Venum, The Gun Store and everybody else. You can follow him on twitter @MartinKampmann.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Can Kampmann get back into contention if he can soundly beat Thiago Alves? Would you have any interest in a rematch with Carlos Condit if so?
If you'd like to listen to the audio of my interview with Kampmann, click here. (Interview starts at the 48:00 mark).