By Elias Cepeda
Leading up to this Saturday’s UFC 154, it has, at times, seemed as if co-main event opponents Martin Kampmann and Johny Hendricks have had to field more questions about past and possible future opponents than one another. The two welterweights square off in what should be a #1 contender’s fight in Montreal for the right to face the winner of the headliner between champion Georges St. Pierre and interim champ Carlos Condit.
There’s good reason that the Dane is getting lots of questions about his past and future even though he’s got Hendricks in front of him. Kampmann, like Hendricks, is on a tear in the welterweight division and also owns a win over Condit.
“It doesn’t matter what fight it is,” Kampmann tells CagePotato. “Everybody tries to be like, ‘you beat this guy,’ ‘what are you going to do after this fight?’ My main thing right now is Johny Hendricks. That’s what I’m training hard for.”
And it’s the training that keeps Martin focused throughout all the potentially distracting media attention and questions he’s fielded over the past few months.
“This started as a hobby for me so I like the grind,” Kampmann explains. “I like to get in the gym. When you have a fight you have to get in the gym a lot but I still enjoy it. Of course some days you want to be in the gym more than others, but overall my motivation is really good. Even when I don’t have a fight I’m in the gym training because I love to train. I enjoy training and I have fun doing it.”
Its something that he and Hendricks did a lot together, in fact. A while back the two adversaries were, in fact, training partners. Kampmann helped the college wrestling superstar with his striking and Hendricks worked with Martin on his wrestling.
“We trained together some years ago when he started fighting. He was fighting in the WEC. He was here in Vegas for a couple of years, I think. In the beginning he was training at Xtreme Couture a lot, and then he was training more at [Marc] Laimon’s gym. I still knew him a little bit and we trained quite a lot together,” Kampmann details.
“He was helping me with my wrestling, helping me a lot actually, and I was helping him with his stand-up. There was mutual benefit for both of us but I’m still confident that I can beat him.”
When asked if the familiarity with one another will work in his favor or not, Kampmann is thoughtful and honest.
“I’m not sure if it’s good or bad. I don’t know.”
What he does know is that Hendricks is no joke and that he can’t look past him.
“The things that stood out in training with him were the same things that stand out when he fights. He’s got a heavy left hand and he’s got great wrestling. That’s his main strength. He had decided to learn, had decided to get better. He’s a hard worker. That’s what has gotten him from the WEC all the way to the top of the UFC welterweight division. He’s been working hard,” Kampmann allows.
The opponent and the stakes of the fight create a lot of pressure but Kampmann says he relishes big fights and the pressure that comes with them. “I’ve been in big fights before and done well. The big fights are the ones I want.”
If Kampmann beats Hendricks he will likely take on St. Pierre or Condit for the unified world title. The Xtreme Couture fighter makes it clear that it is the belt that he’s gunning for, and not any particular fighter.
“Right now GSP is considered the best so right now I want to fight GSP,” Kampmann says. “If Condit beats him I want to fight him. I want to fight for the real belt.”
At first Kampmann picked St. Pierre to beat Condit but says that his opinion has changed recently. “I used to think GSP would win but now I’m leaning for Condit to win the fight,” he says.
“Condit can finish it. Condit is not going to quit. I think he might be able to hurt GSP and make him quit.”
“The Natural Born Killer” at least is more of a known commodity to Kampmann. They fought one another in a close and thrilling 2009 bout where Kampmann came out on top via decision.
“Our first fight was a war so I’m sure the fans wouldn’t mind seeing another one with two more rounds,” he says.
If Condit does manage to upset St. Pierre in his hometown at UFC 154, Kampmann is confident that he will beat the champion much more decisively than he did before.
“I feel confident in that fight and I feel confident that I’d be able to finish him the next time.”