Since dropping down to a more natural weight class at welterweight, Martin Kampmann has been a force to be reckoned with.
He has won four of five contests at the 170-pound limit, including his recent destruction of the always dangerous Paulo Thiago at UFC 115 this past June in Vancouver.
Now he sits on the precipice of the biggest fight of his entire professional career.
He has come a long ways since he began his combat sports career in his native Denmark in the early 2000s.
On Saturday, October 23 at the UFC 121 event, the 28-year-old will face former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields, who is making his much anticipated promotional debut.
“The Hitman” took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss Shields’ one-dimensional fighting style, his desire to keep the fight standing and the title implications that may or may not be in play.
Check it out:
Derek Bolender: You’re coming off an impressive victory over Paulo Thiago. You looked like you were putting on a seminar out there, and everything was clicking. Were you happy with your performance that night?
Martin Kampmann: I was definitely happy with my performance. I still made some mistakes. I looked at it, and there was still a lot of room for improvement. I did not get to finish him. I was really close to finishing him a lot of times, especially in the last round where I got a good arm triangle locked in. I feel if I had a little bit more time in that last round I could have finished it. Overall, I was satisfied with my performance.
Derek Bolender: What specifically did you not like about your performance from a technical perspective?
Martin Kampmann: I had his back once and he almost reversed me. He got a kimura on me. He swept me to my back. I came back to my feet pretty quick. I would prefer not to end up on my back. He took me down once, too. I got up pretty quick after that as well but little things like that. I still look at that and see room for improvement. I try to take lessons from both my wins and my losses.
Derek Bolender: Do you feel like your skills are rounding out and converging to the point where you are the best you have ever been right now as a mixed martial artist?
Martin Kampmann: I definitely feel I keep improving. I’m getting better. I would definitely beat myself if I was fighting myself a year ago. I try to learn something new everyday. I try to better myself in wrestling and jiu-jitsu and boxing all the time. You can never stand still and say “I’m the best now” or whatever. You have to keep improving all the time. That is the mindset you have to have.
Derek Bolender: You have Jake Shields in front of you next. He is known as a great submission grappler, but his stand-up has always been a work in progress. Would you classify him as a one-dimensional fighter?
Martin Kampmann: I think you can say he is one-dimensional, but he is really good at that dimension. He is great at what he does. I definitely think he is a dangerous opponent. He has stand-up as well—he has skills. He is just not as polished there. His biggest strength is his wrestling and his jiu-jitsu and his top game. Everybody knows what he is going to do, but he still gets away with it. He takes people down and dominates.
Derek Bolender: One-dimensional is something you simply cannot be these days and still plan to be successful more times that not. The sport has evolved. He is somewhat different in that regard. Why has he been so successful with his “dimension?”
Martin Kampmann: He has found a style that works for him. He can take people down off of singles and high crotch, double legs too. You will see him go to side mount. He has good passes. He applies good pressure on top. He goes to that reverse side mount and then usually goes for mount. That is the blueprint.
Derek Bolender: We know your standup is fluid and technical. The fight starts standing, and you will have the advantage from the outset. Do you feel like you will be able to take more chances in this fight with your hands than you normally would against an above average striker?
Martin Kampmann: I feel I almost have to take fewer chances. It is easier to box a guy that wants to box you than the guy that just wants to take you down.
Derek Bolender: Tell me how your training camp has broken down. Were you in Las Vegas for the duration?
Martin Kampmann: I am still training at my home base of Xtreme Couture. Besides that I also go train with Robert Drysdale.
Derek Bolender: If I said give me a thing or two you absolutely must do in this fight to be able to have success, what would you say?
Martin Kampmann: One key factor in this fight is definitely going to be defending the take down. That is my No.1 priority. That is going to be the key to winning the fight.
Derek Bolender: If you do find yourself on your back are you confident you can sweep or use the cage to get back to your feet and not let him sit in your guard and control from top position like he has done against so many guys?
Martin Kampmann: Definitely, I am going to work to get back to my feet. It is not like I am completely lost on the ground. I feel confident in my ground skills. I think I have evolved a lot. People have always underestimated my ground skills. I have been training on the ground for a long time. I think I have good jiu-jitsu as well. Of course, I prefer to keep the fight standing where I feel I have a big advantage. In case he does happen to get a take down, I am prepared for the worst. He is going to have to work hard to get me down. He is going to have to work hard to keep me down.
Derek Bolender: Four of your wins in the UFC have come by submission, and like you said, your offensive submission skills are largely underrated by a lot of people. Why do you think that is?
Martin Kampmann: I don’t know. I think I got labeled as a striker when I first got into the UFC. I have been training submission wrestling for a long time. Once you are labeled it kind of sticks with you. Before I got into the UFC I think most of my wins were by TKO, but in the UFC almost all my wins are by submission. I think I should definitely get some credit for that.
Derek Bolender: What is your understanding of the title implications with regards to your fight? It seems like there is a different scenario presented each week. It’s like a game of blindfolded musical chairs.
Martin Kampmann: I would love to get a title shot, but first I have to beat Jake Shields. Once I beat him I will look to get that title shot. The UFC sometimes says this or that is a No.1 contender-fight, but it does not really matter until my fight is over. Sometimes they change their minds and put somebody else in there. It does not matter until you have that bout agreement signed. Right now, that is not really a concern of mine.
Derek Bolender is a freelance MMA writer who has contributed to CBSSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, and MMAmania.com (in addition to BleacherReport.com). Follow him on Twitter at @DerekBolender.