Every now and then a special breed of fighter emerges. A man both profoundly tough and always dangerous, this man is a scarce find. But these special exceptions to the rule are out there, and this is a tribute to the toughest of the tough, the true killers who always hunt for the finish, even when everything’s on the line and nothing’s in the knees.
To launch this piece with anyone other than Martin Kampmann at the forefront of discussion feels certifiably improper. Have no doubt, there are men who happen to be just as tough as Martin Kampmann.
But to point to anyone and say definitively, without the shadow of a doubt, that Chris Leben, or Nick Diaz or Mauricio Rua is the tougher guy...this kind of intangible is practically immeasurable. It’s a wild X-factor that you have or you don’t.
Martin Kampmann has it.
Time and again “The Hitman” has displayed a wild ability to recover from potentially fight-ending blows and compromised positions. He refuses to quit, and if you cannot render the man completely immobilized—a feat only three men have accomplished—there is a constant threat that lingers.
Jake Ellenberger roughed up Kampmann early in their meeting at The Ultimate Fighter 15 finale, but that didn’t stop him from keeping his fight IQ in the target range. He struggled, survived and eventually throttled Ellenberger, forcing referee intervention.
Thiago Alves looked to be about 45 seconds away from exiting the Octagon victorious, but Kampmann capitalized on a single err in judgment and snatched victory from the grip of defeat with a tight guillotine choke.
While the judges don’t always side with Kampmann, even when it appears he’s clearly won the contest, he brings his heart into the cage with him and lets it pump plasma all over the canvas. He did it when tangling with Diego Sanchez and Jake Shields. He’s proven to be a guy that simply cannot be overlooked.
No matter how the fight unfolds, one guarantee is affixed: Kampmann can never be counted out of a fight.