In the mind of UFC president Dana White, the man vying for a welterweight title shot at UFC 121 on Saturday is the promotion’s big, new free-agent acquisition, Jake Shields.
However, there’s one person out there who would like to remind White of the other perfectly deserving contender standing across the Octagon from Shields.
“Hopefully, when I go and win the fight,” Martin Kampmann told MMA DieHards, “(White’s promise of top contender status) counts for me as well.”
Kampmann, whose record stands at 17-3, had been on the verge of top contender status in the UFC’s welterweight division once before, but a TKO at the hands of Paul Daley delayed his title aspirations. The loss was somewhat of a surprise to many, who felt that Kampmann chose the wrong strategy by attempting to stand toe-to-toe with a striker as dangerous as “Semtex.”
“Sometimes you get punched and you forget the gameplan because you want to get the other guy back,” Kampmann confessed. “I was disappointed in myself. I think I should have won that fight.
“I could have fought him a lot smarter than what I did. I think it’s a fight I should have won. I think it’s a fight I’ll win if I fight him again. I’d love to get the chance to fight him again and show it was a fluke.”
The former middleweight rebounded from that defeat in his next two bouts by submitting Jacob Volkmann and earning a unanimous decision over fellow contender Paulo Thiago.
While those wins are impressive, a victory over the UFC’s prized acquisition would make Kampmann an impossible name to ignore when discussing the 170-pound division’s most worthy title contenders.
Kampmann entered the UFC with his knockout and TKO stoppages greatly outnumbering his submission finishes, but he doesn’t feel he should be categorized as a striker. On the other hand, he feels that Shields can be pigeonholed.
“He is one-dimensional and sometimes a little boring as well,” said Kampmann.
While Kampmann might find himself yawning at the fighting style of his upcoming opponent, he does not take Shields lightly.
“I think he’s really good at what he does,” Kampmann admitted. “He gets people down, gets on top of them and grinds them out. He’s got some good submissions as well.
“He’s probably one of the best jiu-jitsu guys at 170. He’s got a really good top game in jiu-jitsu.”
Shields has never been known for his stand-up and it’s no secret that he’d prefer to get this fight to the mat.
“I don’t expect him to do it, but I expect him to try,” Kampmann said. “I’m sure he’s going to try, but I’m going to stuff that takedown and make him pay for trying.”
Meanwhile, Kampmann hopes to turn this into a stand-up affair.
“The more the fight stays on the feet, the better it is for me,” Kampmann said. “I think my boxing is a lot better than his.”
In his recent outing against Thiago, Kampmann put on an impressive striking display. He continued to work on his stand-up in preparation for the UFC 121 fight, training with K-1 kickboxer Ray Sefo and boxing coach Gil Martinez at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.
“(Sefo) is Obi-Wan Kenobi,” said Kampmann. “He knows his shit.”
While Kampmann might be a Jedi-in-training on his feet, he’s not ignoring the other facets of mixed martial arts. He is working with the wrestlers at the gym to improve his takedown defense and also spends time at the gym of Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and Abu Dhabi champion Robert Drysdale.
“I think I’ve always had a pretty solid ground game, I just don’t get credit for it,” Kampmann said.
However, the longtime UFC veteran feels there is always room for improvement as a fighter and stays busy training in all aspects of the sport.
“Once you’re standing still, you get left behind,” he said.
Kampmann usually gets disappointed if he doesn’t finish his opponent and deliver an exciting fight. However, he’s not carrying that burden this time around.
“I think the pressure is more on Jake in this case because he’s more known for having some fights that are kind of boring,” claimed Kampmann.
With that weight lifted from his shoulders, Kampmann is just concentrating on the win. And the title shot that might follow.