Following a loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 158, former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit decided to make wrestling a priority for his training camps going forward.
Hendricks beat Condit essentially because he was able to take him to the mat on 12 occasions during the fight. Condit outstruck and outlanded Hendricks in every round of the fight, but when the takedowns were factored in, the edge on the scoring went to his opponent.
It marked Condit's second straight loss to opponents who more or less outwrestled him to get a decision victory. The other was his 2012 title fight loss to Georges St-Pierre, where the Canadian consistently took Condit to the mat to avoid his striking on the feet.
Condit vowed after his loss in March to Hendricks that he was going to head home to New Mexico and dedicate himself to learning and understanding wrestling in a way he had never done before in any training camp.
"I've definitely been making it a priority," Condit told Bleacher Report about his wrestling game. "You can't neglect your other skills and other aspects of the game, but wrestling is a big part of the reason I lost the last two fights so I need to really hit that hard, and I have been."
Ironically enough, Condit's next fight at UFC Fight Night 27 comes in a rematch against Martin Kampmann, who won their first bout based mostly on a series of takedowns and ground work. Kampmann is not typically known as a wrestler, but it didn't stop him from repeatedly putting Condit on his back where he would have the best chance for victory.
To make sure there was no repeat of the first fight, Condit brought in several high-profile grapplers to get him ready for Kampmann and any other fighter who tries to take him to the mat.
"I worked with some really, really good coaches," Condit explained. "We have Izzy (Martinez), who has been a staple down at Jackson's for a while, I've been working with Ricky Lundell, and then I've been working with a guy named Jake Herbert. I've definitely made some improvements and I'm excited to show what I've been working on."
While the names Martinez and Lundell should sound familiar to most MMA fans (Martinez is Jon Jones and Clay Guida's wrestling coach, and Lundell is an experienced grappler who has worked with fighters like Frank Mir and Joe Lauzon), the newest person to his mix is 2012 Olympian Jake Herbert.
As a former two-time NCAA champion, a four-time All-American wrestler and recipient of the Dan Hodge trophy for the best wrestler in the U.S., Herbert has all the credentials of to be considered one of the best grapplers in the world.
He has flirted with the idea of moving to MMA, and has now spent the last couple of months in New Mexico at Jackson's MMA to help Condit with his wrestling. Whether training there bleeds over into Herbert's own career goals is unknown, but his experience and teaching has been invaluable to Condit as he gets ready for his next fight.
"He's a really good coach," Condit said about Herbert. "I brought in some good wrestlers in the past, but Jake, his coaching style is really, really good."
Condit's wrestling game has definitely gone under the microscope since his last two fights ended in losses, but he's still a student of MMA and didn't sacrifice other skills just for the sake of stopping a takedown.
The difference this time is Condit really brought focus on one of his weaker areas. The result was not only improved wrestling, but a positive attitude for the successes he's accomplished as he gets ready for his next fight on August 28.
"I think in a long time it is (the most positive)," Condit said. "I really didn't take a whole lot of time off from the last one. I've been having a lot of fun this summer, been doing some fun stuff, having some me time, but I've also been making gains and working on things I needed to work on."
"So coming into camp I was already kind of ahead of the game. Instead of trying to play catch up or getting in shape for the first month, and then you're getting into your game planning and your skills. I was already to go. There was no catch up."
Condit hopes to display his new wrestling game, along with the right kind of fire necessary to burn Kampmann in their rematch, and get his name back into title contention in the UFC.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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