MMA: Martin Kampmann

Alves: I'm glad I didn't win UFC title in 2009

April, 17, 2014
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
Thiago Alves believes he has built up credit with whatever forces control injuries in mixed martial arts. After four surgeries in the past two years, he’s paid up for a while.

Finally healthy, Alves (19-9) will return to the UFC for the first time in 25 months to face Seth Baczynski at a UFC on Fox event this weekend in Orlando.
[+] EnlargeAlves
Ed Mulholland for ESPNThiago Alves, left, is 30 years old, and believes he still has years of fighting left in him.

Since a third-round submission loss to Martin Kampmann in March 2012, Alves, 30, has undergone surgery to repair damage in each of his pectoral muscles, the ACL/PCL in his left knee and his left biceps. He was forced to pull out of two fights in that span.

“I was angry at my body,” Avles told “I asked, ‘Why you giving up on me? We’ve got a lot of fights left.’ It never crossed my mind to quit, though. I’m young. In a weird way, it was a perfect time for everything to happen back-to-back.

“I think I’ll be good now for six years; no injuries.”

Forfeiting 25 months of competition (during his athletic prime) has been a tough pill to swallow for Alves -- but he’s doing his best to give it a positive spin.

He was financially able to remain a full-time fighter during the past two years, even though he didn’t collect a single fight paycheck. UFC fighter insurance helped; Alves said it covered the costs of three of his four procedures.

American Top Team owner Dan Lambert helped Alves pay for the fourth.

“I haven’t gotten a significant paycheck in two years, but I’ve been able to maintain the same focus on getting better,” Alves said. “I’m very blessed to be a part of ATT.”

Even with the financial help, Alves was forced to prioritize his spending in ways he hadn’t previously. In other words, there weren’t as many discretionary dollars lying around to fund Alves’ social life -- which he says has been a blessing in disguise.

Alves has admitted to having a taste for the party scene, but in the past two years, he couldn’t be a part of it even when he wanted to -- he couldn’t afford it.

All the partying, all the waste of money isn't happening anymore. Everything is precise and it feels really good.

" -- Thiago Alves, on a change of lifestyle following a nearly two-year absence from the Octagon due to injury

“When you don’t have income anymore, you can’t spend that much money,” Alves said. “That was one of the greatest things. I had to cut costs. It changed my lifestyle. I went to the gym, back to home, back to the gym. All the partying, all the waste of money isn’t happening anymore. Everything is precise and it feels really good.”

Maturity, really, is what it sounds like Alves has gained when listening to him. He has drastically changed his diet in recent years. After missing weight twice in four fights from 2008 to 2010, Alves was nearly forced by the UFC to move to middleweight.

These days, Alves is working diligently with well-known nutritionist Mike Dolce and expects his weight cut this week to be one of the easiest of his career.

He says his relationship with coaches has never been better and, during his long break from the cage, found time to get engaged. Everything about his personal life is vastly different than in 2009, when he fought Georges St-Pierre for the welterweight title at UFC 100.

“I wasn’t ready for the title at that time,” Alves said. “I’m glad I didn’t get it. Maybe I wouldn’t even be alive if I had become champion at that time because I was in such a wrong way.”

It’s pretty crazy when you consider Alves has already fought 17 times for the UFC, just sat out 25 months -- and is still just 30 years old.

Now that his body is cooperating again, Alves is confident big things lie ahead.

“I’ve been pushing my limit constantly since the surgeries to see how my body holds up and it’s been great,” Alves said.

“The welterweight division has always been competitive. There are so many guys at this weight. It doesn’t mean the division is better now, though. The biggest threat has always been [St-Pierre] because he’s such a smart fighter. I don’t see other guys doing that. The guys you see in this division right now, once they get hit a few times they are going to go after you. The division is wide open. I see a big opening.”

Dallas notes: Title shots, Carano's return

March, 14, 2014
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto

DALLAS -- Is the UFC 171 co-main event between Carlos Condit and Tyron Woodley a No. 1 contender bout in the welterweight division? That depends on whom you ask.

During a media function on Thursday, Condit and Woodley both said they've been guaranteed a title shot with a win over the other on Saturday. The vacant belt is up for grabs in the night’s headliner between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler.
[+] EnlargeJosh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley
Al Powers for ESPNWith a win, Tyron Woodley could be in line for a UFC title shot.

Moments after Condit and Woodley left the American Airlines Center, however, UFC president Dana White said nothing is ever a guarantee -- especially UFC title shots.

“There are no guarantees anywhere in life,” White said. “They’re going to have to come out and perform -- and we’ll see what happens.”

The UFC 171 main card is stacked with elite welterweight talent. Hendricks, Lawler, Condit, Woodley, Hector Lombard and Jake Shields are all potential titleholders at 170 pounds.

Condit (29-7) lost back-to-back fights to Georges St-Pierre and Hendricks but rebounded in August with a finish over Martin Kampmann. His primary focus in the past year has been shoring up the wrestling deficiency that led to those two losses.

“I was in tune with the lack of wrestling ability on my part before those fights, but I feel like the guys I’ve brought in now, the particular coaches, just fit me and my personality better,” Condit told

“I’ve been told I get a title shot, and I plan on putting on a phenomenal show against Tyron Woodley. I deserve the title shot.”

Woodley (12-2) would essentially jump the line at 170 pounds should he get an opportunity to fight for the belt. A member of American Top Team, Woodley is just 2-1 in the UFC and 2-2 in his past four fights.

That hasn’t dampened his outlook on the situation, however. Woodley campaigned hard for the Condit fight and believes he’s ready to carry the welterweight torch.

“I don’t care who is ranked higher or who is next in line,” Woodley said. “Nobody will be a better champion than me. I think I’m the full package -- a combination of good, hood and Hollywood. I’m marketable, punch hard and well-spoken.”

White, however, apparently hasn’t forgotten another fight on the UFC 171 main card between Hector Lombard (33-4-1) and Jake Shields (29-6-1). Shields has a strong case for a title shot with career wins over Condit, Woodley and Lawler.

“I think pretty much anybody on this card who comes out looking great and exciting can get a shot,” White said.

As for the man who gave up the belt late last year, White said he “knows for a fact” that St-Pierre will eventually return from retirement and fight whoever has the belt.

“I haven’t talked to him, but we’ve texted,” White said.

“Is it fun for Georges St-Pierre to be gone? I wouldn’t say it’s fun, but the welterweight division is exciting now ... and when Georges does come back, whoever is standing there, it will be a fun fight.”

White on Rousey, Carano, Holm

A fantasy fight between UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and former featherweight-turned-actress Gina Carano remains just that for now -- a fantasy.
[+] EnlargeGina Carano
Jon Kopaloff/Getty ImagesDon't expect to see Gina Carano make a return to the cage.

Carano (7-1) has not fought since August 2009 and spent the majority of her career above 135 pounds, but that hasn’t stamped out rumors of a potential comeback.

White maintains there is nothing currently in the works regarding an upcoming opponent for Rousey (9-0), who recently vacationed out of the country.

“There’s absolutely nothing going on,” White said.

White did say that any fight involving Rousey would be done at 135 pounds and not a catchweight, including a bout against Carano. He also confirmed reports of a split between Rousey with her management team, Fight Tribe Management.

The two sides are reportedly involved in a dispute regarding her contract. White said he was aware of it and it would not affect her ability to compete.

“It doesn’t affect it in that way at all,” White said. “That’s between them and has nothing to do with [the UFC].”

White also confirmed he’s scheduled to meet with undefeated female bantamweight Holly Holm (6-0) for the first time this weekend in Texas. Holm has fought for Bellator MMA and Legacy Fighting Championships.

“I’m meeting with her this week,” White said. “I’ve never met them. We’ll see what happens.”

Hendricks' power the key to unlocking GSP

November, 15, 2013
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
More than likely, Johny Hendricks is going to need a lot more than just his left hand to beat Georges St-Pierre on Saturday at UFC 167 in Las Vegas.

Hendricks will need confidence, patience, discipline, intelligence, offensive and defensive grappling, stamina, feints, level changes, head movement, footwork and, maybe, some luck for good measure. A little luck never hurt anybody in a UFC title fight.

That left hand, though -- the reason you hear so much about it is because even though Hendricks (15-1) must take every tool he has into the Octagon against St-Pierre, at any moment that one left hand might be all it takes.

What is it about that left hand that makes it so dangerous and gives us reason to believe Hendricks could become just the third man to ever defeat St-Pierre (24-2), and first since 2007? asked that question of Hendricks, as well as St-Pierre and five previous Hendricks opponents with firsthand knowledge of that stinging left.

Hendricks: "Realistically, [the power] comes from my legs and my butt. I walk around at 225. I have big legs and a big butt. That's where all the power comes from. And, you know, wrestling -- always being in that stance and ready to explode."

Handling Hendricks' power

T.J. Grant (lost to Hendricks via majority decision at UFC 113 in May 2010): "The thing is, he doesn't have to try to throw for power -- he just has it. He has always got his legs involved in every punch, too. That's when you murder guys, when you have your feet and hips involved in every punch. That's why Johny has so much power is all his life in wrestling. When he throws that big Popeye forearm at your head, you're going to go down."

St-Pierre: "His left is his signature move but he works on many things. He's a very complete fighter. He's probably one of the best in the division in knockout power and the reason why is he's so good you don't see it coming. The way he throws it, I believe you don't see it coming."

Martin Kampmann (lost to Hendricks via knockout at UFC 154 in November 2012): "I think the problem was I was preparing too much for the left hook and then he came straight with one. The one he got [Jon] Fitch with, he was throwing it wide, wide. With me, he came straight down the middle."

Rick Story (defeated Hendricks via unanimous decision at TUF 12 Finale in December 2010): "During the fight, when he was punching me, I thought, 'Eh, this is nothing I haven't felt before.' He's placing them. His punching power isn't seriously superior. To be able to place them you have to throw them and some people hesitate. He has got confidence in it now so he's throwing a lot more."

Josh Koscheck (lost to Hendricks via split decision at UFC on Fox in May 2012): "For me, it was no big deal. I like fighting southpaws. I prefer it. They are better for my style. When he throws the left, I throw the right. I think he has definitely got power in his hands because he has knocked out a lot of guys and the ones he hasn't have felt it because they've been knocked down, but for me it was no big deal."

Mike Pierce (lost to Hendricks via split decision at UFC 133 in August 2011): "It wasn't his straight left hand that caught me off guard. His left uppercut is kind of funky and then his coach [Marc Laimon] yelling, 'Cheeseburger, cheeseburger!' code names for combinations. He hits pretty hard but not the hardest. I got thumped pretty hard by Aaron Simpson, that was probably the hardest I've ever been hit."

Making adjustments

[+] EnlargeHendricks/Koscheck
AP Photo/Gregory PayanJosh Koscheck withstood Johny Hendricks' power, but was unable to win a decision in their 2012 bout.
Story: "The main concern going into the fight was he knew he was heavy-handed, but the thing is, with all his previous fights, he was always pushing forward. My coach, Pat White, told me, 'If you get him going backward, he's not going to have any power on his punches.' That was my biggest focus."

Koscheck: "The game plan for Johny was to mix it up on the feet. You can hear [trainer] Bob Cook in the corner, it's crazy, he's always saying, 'Get off first! Be first!' That was pretty much our game plan -- get off first, get on him. With Hendricks, it's much easier to get off first and then get away from the big left hand."

Grant: "He has got timing. He puts his whole body behind his punches. He is accurate but a lot of times he also level changes with his head and hips and that kind of brings the guys' hands down. He 100 percent commits. He's a confident fighter. When you're confident, you don't hesitate and those milliseconds of hesitation are the difference between knocking a guy out or taking him down."

Story: "What's important for Georges is to stay out of Johny's range. What's important for Johny is to get into Georges' range. He's going to have to mix it up and get pretty creative. Georges has been doing this a long time."

Hendricks: "Whenever you're wrestling in college, you've got to do all these setups and your reaction from [outside of an opponent to inside] has to penetrate through all these distractions and get to the legs very quickly and explosively. That's what has really helped me out [in fighting]. They try to keep me at bay because I'm so short, but I use that explosiveness to close the distance."


Kampmann: "If Johny catches him on the button he'll hurt him, but St-Pierre is going to fight him smart. He's going to try to jab him from the outside the whole fight. Johny is good at closing the distance but he's going to get jabbed the whole fight. If Johny commits hard, that's how I think St-Pierre will take him down. Even though Johny is the better wrestler, I think St-Pierre can still take him down. That's how I think St-Pierre is going to fight him, but sometimes s--- don't go to plan."

Koscheck: "Johny Hendricks is a tough young fighter and I wish him the best but I think St-Pierre will outpoint him. Georges is smart. He's a game planner. He'll jab, use his wrestling at times, keep Johny at a distance and get off first. Georges is a lot faster than Johny. He'll end up winning a decision."

Pierce: "I'm definitely going for Johny Hendricks. I want to see him knock Georges St-Pierre out. In his past several fights Johny has really excelled at catching guys. St-Pierre has shown in the past he doesn't have the best chin in the world. We all saw him fall to Matt Serra and I think Hendricks has all the capabilities to do the same sort of thing and even more so."

Grant: "You can never count Georges out of any fight, but I think this is probably the most dangerous fighter he has fought just because Johny has that great wrestling pedigree. Unlike Koscheck, I feel like he's really good at making the knockout happen, whereas Koscheck wings a lot of right hands and if it doesn't land, he doesn't always have the second and third option -- I think Johny does. I give the advantage to Johny, personally."

Hendricks: "Whenever you get a guy that walks in at 190 to 195 pounds -- that's usually what I walk into the Octagon at -- and you get that moving pretty quick, he can throw a 50 percent punch and lay somebody out. It's about accuracy. You touch that jawline and anybody is going night-night."

Condit still a major player at 170 pounds

August, 29, 2013
McNeil By Franklin McNeil

There are only two welterweights who can claim to be better than Carlos Condit and neither is named Martin Kampmann. Condit not only exacted revenge Wednesday night at Bankers Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, he dominated Kampmann en route to a fourth-round knockout win.

The victory avenged a split-decision setback Condit suffered to Kampmann in April 2009. Their first fight was closely contested; not so the second time around.

Condit punched Kampmann in the face repeatedly throughout the bout, eventually leaving it bloody and puffy; he connected with kicks to the body, which slowed Kampmann’s attack and evaporated his confidence.

The performance was impressive, but more important it strengthened Condit’s case to get the winner of Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks -- those two are set to meet Nov. 16 at UFC 167 in Las Vegas. Normally it would be unthinkable to suggest that a fighter who lost his two previous bouts to the men slated to compete for the belt deserves to be next in line for the title shot.

Both and, however, rate Condit the No. 2 welterweight contender behind Hendricks. Even UFC president Dana White can’t take issue with those rankings.

“It was an absolutely great fight. Carlos Condit just proved why he is the No. 2 [welterweight contender] in the world,” White said after Condit improved to 29-7.
[+] EnlargeCarlos Condit
Ross Dettman for ESPNBy pushing a blistering pace and keeping the fight standing, Carlos Condit was able to exact revenge over Martin Kampmann.

Who deserves the St-Pierre-Hendricks winner more? The guy with the strongest counter is Rory MacDonald. But it’s not clear that MacDonald will step in against friend and teammate St-Pierre, if he is still champion after 167.

Besides, MacDonald needs to prove he has surpassed Condit before his case of being next in line to get a title shot is taken seriously. Condit has a victory over MacDonald -- a third-round knockout in June 2010.

MacDonald can claim that he is a vastly improved fighter since the loss to Condit -- there is no doubting that argument. But he should have to prove it, just as Condit did Wednesday night against Kampmann.

The only way MacDonald moves ahead of Condit in the title-shot pecking order is to prove it. Exact revenge on Condit and the debate ends. Until then, it should be all about Condit. Other than coming up short against St-Pierre and Hendricks, Condit did nothing to diminish his reputation as a top-rated welterweight.

“There are a lot of intriguing matches in the division, but of course, I’d like to get that title shot, possibly Johny Hendricks or Georges St-Pierre, whoever wins,” Condit said. “But there are other fights out here that are interesting also. We will see what happens.”

It sounds as though Condit wouldn’t mind further cementing his position as the No. 2 welterweight contender with a win over MacDonald. That fight, however, only makes sense if MacDonald is successful against Robbie Lawler at UFC 176.

As for Kampmann, he has some soul-searching to do. The loss was his second in a row -- to Condit and Hendricks. Losing to those guys doesn’t place Kampmann (20-7) in the steppingstone category. But the manner in which he went down, getting knocked out in each of those setbacks, will make it difficult for Kampmann to get a sniff at a title shot anytime soon.

Kampmann is now forced to play the waiting game. He entered Wednesday’s rematch ranked seventh by among 170-pound fighters, and sixth by Kampmann must now keep a close eye on where he falls when those polls are next released. Expect him to remain in the top 10 -- but barely.

Condit can't afford another loss

August, 27, 2013
McNeil By Franklin McNeil

Call it a sense of urgency, a must-win, maybe even the most important fight of his career. Any one of these phrases would adequately describe how welterweight contender Carlos Condit feels heading into his rematch Wednesday night with Martin Kampmann.

For nearly 11 years as a professional mixed martial artist, Condit has been driven to become champion. He’s sought ways to improve his skills while seeking to develop new ones to increase his fighting arsenal.

This approach has served Condit well, earning him WEC lineal and UFC interim welterweight titles. Even after a loss, including a split-decision setback to Kampmann in his UFC debut on April 1, 2009, Condit went into his next bout with the same level of determination.

But this rematch with Kampmann at UFC Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis feels different. Despite a two-fight skid -- losses to champion Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks -- he remains ranked among the division’s top contenders. ranks Condit third overall, while has him second among the contenders.

But for the first time in his pro career, Condit openly admits feeling that he can’t afford to drop another fight. He, especially, can’t lose a rematch to Kampmann, who is ranked seventh and sixth by and, respectively.

“Absolutely, it is [a must-win situation],” the 29-year-old Condit told “I hate to lose. I’m a competitive person; I’m here to win. It would not be good to lose this fight.

“A win puts me right back in the title picture. This is a great opportunity to get me back in [title] contention. I look forward to getting another shot at one of the top five guys.”

Reflecting on losses to St-Pierre and Hendricks, who are currently the top two 170-pound fighters, does not diminish Condit’s sense of urgency, though he performed admirably against both. He went into those bouts expecting to win, and now he wants a chance to even the score with each fighter.

But he prefers to exact revenge in a title fight. And for the record, Condit believes that when he does get another welterweight title shot, it will be against St-Pierre. The reigning welterweight champion and Hendricks will meet Nov. 16 at UFC 167 in Las Vegas.

“Hendricks has the ability to win,” Condit said. “He’s got a puncher’s chance. But GSP is just too technical. I think he’s going to go out there and do what he’s been doing for the last couple of years and get a decision over Hendricks.”

But to keep his hopes of another title fight alive, Condit must first get by Kampmann. And this time around, Condit believes the outcome will be different.

He is a much better fighter now than the guy Kampmann faced four years ago. His ground game is better, as is his takedown defense. Condit also has better control of himself inside the cage; he’s a lot more poised. Mistakes from Condit inside the cage have become very rare.

“I was a little bit raw [in the first fight],” Condit said. “I had the skill, but I wasn’t as polished as I am now. And I’m definitely a smarter, more experienced fighter.”

Experience, maturity and a greater understanding of MMA have turned Condit into one of the best welterweights in the world. But he won’t be the only improved fighter in the cage Wednesday night.

Kampmann, too, has developed into a more skilled, more intelligent mixed martial artist over the past four years. Striking has been Kampmann’s primary weapon of late, but he hasn’t abandoned his submission skills -- as demonstrated during his come-from-behind victory over Thiago Alves in March 2012.

That knockout loss in November to Hendricks notwithstanding, Condit knows that Kampmann is eager to return to the win column.

“I see a lot of improvement,” Condit said. “In his last fight [against Hendricks] he got caught and knocked out. But that aside, I’ve seen a lot of improvement. I know that he’s been working his striking with Ray Sefo over there at Xtreme Couture. I see a lot of improvement in Kampmann’s striking.

“He’s always been so tough as a fighter. And he’s hungry; he’s coming off that loss. He was climbing up the ranks. He had that win over Alves, that win over [Jake] Ellenberger -- a second-round TKO in June 2012 -- then the loss to Hendricks. I’m sure he’s looking to get back in the mix like I am.”

Punches and kicks are expected to fly when these two begin their main-event showdown Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. On a number of occasions recently, Kampmann has stated his intent to finish Condit early.

Condit, however, isn’t insulted by Kampmann’s remarks. He views it as Kampmann just answering questions honestly. That’s Kampmann’s belief, and he isn’t alone: Condit also thinks this fight won’t last five rounds, only it will be his hand the referee raises.

“Whether he said it or he didn’t, that’s obviously his intention,” Condit said. “We’re not out there playing patty-cake. We’re there to put each other’s lights out -- to send someone home with a loss and a concussion. We have to do these interviews, but no matter what we say, we know the intention of our opponent.”

Kampmann: Still one of the guys at the top

August, 23, 2013
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
Martin Kampmann celebrated his seven-year anniversary as a UFC fighter this month. Seven years, man. Wow. What is that exactly -- 13, 14 fights?

“Sixteen,” Kampmann interrupts. “Sixteen fights.”

If Kampmann and Michael Bisping ever go out for beers, it’s easy to picture them hugging it out at least once over one brutal similarity. These two have fought consistently well for years in the Octagon but have yet to fight for the title.

How many times has Kampmann pictured a fight against reigning welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre? He can’t give an exact number. But bring it up and he stares at the ground like a kid describing what he’s wanted for the past five Christmases -- and is still waiting.

“I’d love to fight GSP. I’d ... “ He breaks sentence and shakes his head. “I know it wouldn’t be an easy fight, but I feel I could beat him. I’d love to get the chance to fight him -- very much.”

Despite a first-round knockout loss to Johny Hendricks in his last bout, Kampmann (20-6) feels that fight is within his grasp.

To an extent, the UFC must agree. It booked Kampmann to a main event fight against highly ranked Carlos Condit on Wednesday, at UFC Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis.

“I think a loss always sets you back, but I think I’m still one of the guys at the top,” Kampmann told “I was calling out [Nick] Diaz and Condit. I want to fight those guys coming off losses who are still ranked real high.”

It’s not as though Kampmann gives off a sense of desperation to get to the title, but the veteran understands he’s not an up-and-coming prospect anymore.

Whereas he used to consistently travel to different gyms for different looks when living in Denmark -- including Sweden, Brazil and Thailand -- these days he remains relatively grounded thanks to his wife and two sons.

While younger fighters typically return to the gym quickly following a tough loss or a rough sparring session, Kampmann has been cognizant of the need to let his body heal in between fights.

Even though he’s still confident in his chin, Kampmann knows he’s now suffered four knockout losses in his career.

“Of course I’m worried [about that],” Kampmann said. “It’s not going to make me any smarter getting punched in the head, but that’s the sport. That’s the risk. I think after the [Jake] Ellenberger fight I took a long break. It’s definitely something I’ve gotten more aware of in my career.

“I feel I have a good chin. I’ve had a good chin my whole career. If you get rocked too many times, though, and don’t respect it, I think that’s the problem.”

This week’s bout against Condit (28-7) is a rematch of a bout that took place in April 2009 that resulted in a split decision victory for Kampmann.

Kampmann doesn’t have a long history of fighting opponents multiple times. It’s happened once, against British welterweight Matt Ewin. It went well for him.

“In the first fight, I got on top, elbowed him, and I think I broke his orbital bone,” Kampmann said. “He didn’t come out in the second round. The second fight, he shot in, I sprawled and started elbowing him again, and he tapped out.”

If Kampmann can be as successful in the second rematch of his career, he’ll be once again in striking distance of that Christmas he’s spent seven years working toward.

Ellenberger still working his way up

May, 3, 2013
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
Jake EllenbergerRoss Dettman for ESPN.comAdding boxing skills to his repertoire makes Jake Ellenberger a complete fighter in the UFC.
They don’t look alike. They don’t act alike. They don’t think alike. And they don’t fight alike.

When Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald step into the Octagon on July 27 in Seattle for the co-main event at UFC on Fox 8, it will be very easy to tell them apart. They’re cut from two very different cloths.

“We’re two different species,” Ellenberger recently told “He’s a Cro-Magnon; I’m a Neanderthal. We have different bone density, power, pure instinct, savagery.

“He’d be better at painting caves; I’d be better at killing mastodons.”

There is, however, a tie that binds them. Both are highly-ranked contenders in the UFC’s welterweight division.

Ellenberger is ranked fourth by; MacDonald sits at No. 6. places Ellenberger fourth, while MacDonald occupies the three-spot.

Everybody in UFC is tough. But I've been building up, especially in my last fight. I have a new boxing coach [Carlos Ruffo] who focuses on my strengths and what I need to do to get better.

-- Jake Ellenberger on his improved boxing skills
The winner of their showdown is likely to land a 170-pound title shot if champion Georges St-Pierre and top contender Johny Hendricks settle their issues in the foreseeable future. But if a St-Pierre-Hendricks fight doesn’t materialize, Ellenberger envisions participating in a welterweight title eliminator.

“If [St-Pierre] and Hendricks doesn’t happen next, then I think Hendricks and me are going to decide who’s going to be the next No. 1 contender,” Ellenberger said.

In either case, Ellenberger knows his title shot isn’t far away. And when it arrives, he plans to be more than ready to secure the gold.

Since a second-round TKO loss to Martin Kampmann in June 2012 (a bout Ellenberger was in control of before a knee took him down and snapped his six-fight win streak), he has rebounded with two victories in a row. The Kampmann loss still stings, but Ellenberger doesn’t dwell on it.

Instead, that loss serves as motivation. Ellenberger has always worked to improve his fighting techniques. But the man who dons the Octagon these days is a complete fighter.

Because Ellenberger is a physically strong, highly skilled wrestler, no one has controlled him on the ground. But he is now equally dangerous standing.

Ellenberger has settled in as a proficient boxer. His skills in that discipline were on full display during his most recent fight, a first-round knockout of former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nate Marquardt at UFC 158 in March.

“My whole time in UFC has been about working my way up,” Ellenberger said. “It’s the hardest sport to be consistent at. But I’m focused on the big picture.

“Everybody in UFC is tough. But I’ve been building up, especially in my last fight. I have a new boxing coach [Carlos Ruffo] who focuses on my strengths and what I need to do to get better.

“I’m also in Las Vegas from time to time. Actually I’m there quite a bit; I only live about four hours from Vegas. And when I’m there I’m working with [renowned boxing trainer] Jeff Mayweather.”

Not a single stone has gone unturned in Ellenberger’s boxing development -- footwork, head movement, rolling with punches, jabs, you name it. And through it all, Ellenberger has not compromised his wrestling in the least.

Ellenberger has combined wrestling and boxing in a way that has onlookers shaking their heads. By the way, his jiu-jitsu, especially defensively, hasn’t suffered, either. He can accurately be labeled a full-fledged mixed martial artist.

So when Ellenberger speaks of being the Neanderthal to MacDonald’s Cro-Magnon, it’s not a slight at his opponent; it’s the description that best describes the action that will take place on fight night.

“I feel great about the fight,” Ellenberger said. “[MacDonald] is a guy who really motivated me to work harder.”

Ellenberger intends to be the more dominant man inside the cage in Seattle. He intends to put a vicious beating on MacDonald: Whether it’s on the ground or standing doesn’t matter.

When the result is announced, Ellenberger will lift his hands briefly if he wins -- a friendly acknowledgement to the fans -- then turn his attention to claiming the title. Ellenberger is all about becoming UFC welterweight champion. He won’t accept anything less.

The timing is perfect for Ellenberger to realize his goal: His skills are at peak levels, and his confidence couldn’t be stronger. Everything is in place, even his willingness to savagely pummel an opponent inside the cage -- and he possesses the tools to do just that, if need be.

Maybe Ellenberger’s description of himself as a Neanderthal isn’t too far off. But let’s be clear on one thing: Ellenberger remains a highly intelligent fighter. No one is going to catch him by surprise with a knee anymore -- he’s too smart to fall for that again.

“The timing is perfect for me,” Ellenberger said. “I’m in a good place mentally and physically. I couldn't be better.”
The loser of UFC 158's main event between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz will be able to console himself with the prospect of a future fight with Martin Kampmann. More

UFC 158 rife with welterweight intrigue

March, 12, 2013
Dundas By Chad Dundas

In Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz, the welterweight division has found its odd couple.

They despise each other, and we love it.

Headed into their clash for St-Pierre’s 170-pound title at UFC 158, we quite simply can’t get enough of it, thrilling in that singular way the fight business can at each and every cross word between them. They are perfect together, a headline-stealing machine, as GSP’s straight-laced French Canadian patience slowly unravels in front of the hypnotic skew of Planet Diaz.

It’s no wonder the other four fighters involved in last week’s prefight conference call couldn’t get a word in edgewise. This is a beef for the ages.

Yet even as the great Diaz-St-Pierre feud of 2013 gobbles up all the attention, two of UFC 158’s additional welterweight bouts -- Carlos Condit versus Johny Hendricks and Nate Marquardt versus Jake Ellenberger -- will arguably do just as much on Saturday night to plot the course of the division.

One need look no further than the show’s co-main event, where, as long as Hendricks can take care of business against Condit, it will be difficult to deny him the next available crack at the gold. Of course, that’s exactly what we all thought after Hendricks starched Martin Kampmann in 46 seconds in November and what we thought when he edged Josh Koscheck by split decision six months before that, too.

The story of Hendricks’ UFC career to date has certainly been one of delayed expectations. The guy is so overqualified to be the No. 1 contender, it’s astonishing to behold his 11-1 combined UFC/WEC record, his five straight wins, his nine stoppages in 15 career fights and realize he’s still waiting for his chance. By all rights it should probably be Hendricks fighting for title this weekend, were Diaz-GSP not worth its weight in pay-per-view gold.

The very fact that Hendricks is already so deserving of a championship opportunity is the most nerve-wracking thing about his upcoming fight with Condit. MMA can be a fickle mistress, after all, and if a guy is going to get the rug pulled out from under him in this sport it typically happens just as his fingers are about to close around the brass ring. Long story short: A Condit victory is certainly very possible here, and a loss by Hendricks could potentially be the most chaotic outcome of all.
[+] EnlargeJohny Hendricks
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesJohny Hendricks has about as much to gain as he stands to lose against Carlos Condit.

It would certainly put guys like Demian Maia, Martin Kampmann and Rory MacDonald back in play for No. 1 contender status.

It would also probably do good things for the fortunes of Ellenberger, who could scrawl his own name near the top of the queue if he comes out on top against Marquardt. Ellenberger’s solid wrestling and heavy hands make him nearly as compelling a matchup for St-Pierre as Hendricks, if -- and this is a big one -- he came into their fight prepared to go five full rounds without slowing down.

Perhaps the biggest wild card of all is St-Pierre himself. Assuming he beats Diaz, will he stick around in the welterweight division long enough to fight Hendricks or Ellenberger or anybody else? Or will the champ finally concede to the pressure to head up to middleweight for a big-money superfight against Anderson Silva, leaving this fresh crop of challengers to fight it out among themselves?

Whatever happens, we should at least have a better idea where we’re headed after Saturday.

Unless Diaz wins, in which case all bets are off.

GSP-Diaz and the path of least resistance

December, 7, 2012
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
Nick DiazJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesMatching Nick Diaz's marketability with GSP is exciting news for everyone except Johny Hendricks.
In a UFC on FOX prefight media scrum, Dana White confirmed what a lot of people were thinking: that Georges St-Pierre wants to fight Nick Diaz next. And, with St-Pierre having been such a good lad this holiday season, that's the new fight they're looking at giving him.

Cool. That's a fantastic fight. It was that way before UFC 137 -- back when it was on, then off -- and it is now. But today, it's a fantastic fight with all kinds of messy side effects. It's a fantastic fight out of time and place, even if it is very fun to think about.

Diaz is coming off a suspension, a loss, an all-but-forgotten retirement and that pre-UFC 137 bit of insubordination that got him removed from his last chance at St-Pierre. Johny Hendricks is fresh off annihilations of Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann, with a gritty decision in between over Josh Koscheck.

These things aren't equal. That's why it's complicated.

Hendricks deserves the fight, but he's only deserving. Diaz is alluring, plus three more things: He's a softer letdown from a "superfight" not happening; he's money; and he's Nick Diaz. If he beats St-Pierre, there's no nightmare attached. The same can't be said if the anonymous bearded guy beats St-Pierre. At least not yet.

But let's try to clarify the situation as it stands: Hendricks, the active No. 1 contender in the UFC's welterweight division, joins a growing list of heavy-handed wrestlers who have Octagon control but no control outside the Octagon (along with Dan Henderson at 205 pounds, and Chris Weidman at 185). You know how it looks? Like these fighters are being asked to keep earning title shots until they lose and title shots are no longer available to them. That's a tough swallow.

Then again, these things happen. Chael Sonnen, who hasn't fought at 205 pounds in half a decade and is coming off a definitive loss at 185, is fighting Jon Jones for the title. If that's justifiable, then this is nothing.

All of this started, of course, with Anderson Silva, who called out St-Pierre. We all knew that a "superfight" was going to involve hurt feelings from people near the top of either division. That's the nature of the big inter-division superfights: the backburners need to stay lit while the champions collide. Thing is, the idea of GSP-Silva is massive enough to trump a few slights. Even Hendricks understood that.

GSP-Diaz, though, isn't a superfight. It's a blood fight, one that lots of people -- St-Pierre especially -- are impatient to make happen. Hendricks, and many others, are having a harder time understanding that.

Complicating things further was the fact that White began chirping about GSP-Silva. It was a forgone conclusion that the bout was happening at one of three fancy venues (Cowboys Stadium, the Rogers Centre in Toronto or a big soccer stadium in Brazil). Silva even flew to Montreal to watch St-Pierre defend his 170-pound belt against Carlos Condit at UFC 154, and was shown on a big screen throughout the PPV reacting to every blow. It was a lot of expectation. It was on. It had to be.

Then it wasn't.

St-Pierre won, but afterward didn't seem overly excited for a Silva bout. In fact, he seemed peeved at all the presumption going on around him. Buzzkill. Then he went on vacation to heal and not think about fighting (a fib, because he was clearly thinking about Diaz).

St-Pierre wants Diaz. Silva wants St-Pierre. Diaz wanted Silva (remember that?), but he's cool with St-Pierre. That's straightforward enough. St-Pierre went last, so his vote is newest. He picks Diaz. Diaz isn't Silva, but, with no super-clash with Silva, it's better than Hendricks. He comes equipped with anticipation from the UFC 137 moment that never happened. He comes equipped with unfinished business, which is sellable. Plus, GSP-Diaz isn't a huge departure from GSP-Silva. In fact, GSP-Diaz might be bigger when you factor in the hype and lead-up.

Does any of that make it right? No. But it's not wrong, either.

[+] EnlargeJohny Hendricks
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comSeeing Johny Hendricks miss out on a chance to challenge for Georges St-Pierre's title is a raw deal for those who trust the UFC's pecking order.
If anything, it's awkward timing coming on the heels of the whole Sonnen/Henderson/Jones "marketability versus meritocracy" blow-up, but this instance has better legs. Diaz's suspension was harsh, considering he had a medical marijuana card in the state he lived in. And his loss to Condit wasn't very definitive. It was close. St-Pierre and Diaz also belong in the same weight class, and are both are among the consensus top five in the division.

More importantly, these guys hate each other. Why prolong the inevitable?

Not that any of that matters to Hendricks, who has very politely went about his business of knocking out or beating each guy placed in front of him. This is a raw deal for him. Not to mention a raw deal for people who trust the pecking order. Or for the purists, or those who believe Hendricks is a far scarier challenge to St-Pierre than Diaz.

These people may be right. I tend to think this way, too.

But the UFC was promising GSP-Silva. And when that couldn't be made, it went to the next big thing. And that's GSP-Diaz. With so many promises floating around out there at once, the UFC chose the route of disappointing the least amount of people possible.

Now there's really only one thing left to say about it: Sorry, Johny.

Postmortem: UFC 154 edition

November, 18, 2012
Gross By Josh Gross

Five questions answered

The knee? First Adrian Peterson. Now Georges St-Pierre. Maybe it's time to stop making such a big deal about major knee injuries.
Ring rust? The welterweight champion said he felt effects of the absence, although it hardly hurt his performance. Ring rust is real, but when fighters prepare to the level St-Pierre did, it turns out not to be a significant factor.

And the real champ is? I didn't think there was much of a question here, but the UFC billed Saturday's fight between St-Pierre and Condit as a clash of champions. GSP retains "the man" status.

Your next welterweight contender? Fear the beard; Johny Hendricks didn't trifle with formalities. He simply plowed through Martin Kampmann for the early knockout.

What about the guru? Trainer Greg Jackson went off into the New Mexico desert Saturday night, which is too bad, because he would have enjoyed GSP-Condit. Both welterweights showed up to win and fight, and neither seemed off kilter without Jackson around.

Five new questions

Will the superfight get made? A major hurdle was cleared with St-Pierre's win. Now the onus is on the welterweight champion to say yes to Anderson Silva. St-Pierre will take a few weeks to announce what he wants to do, but the UFC and Anderson Silva are on record as being fine with the fight in May.

Silva, Jones or St-Pierre? Who's the best mixed martial artist on the planet? I consider it a 1, 1-A, 1-AA scenario, but it's clear the top three have separated themselves from the pack. If these superfights take place, the answer will become clear. Otherwise, let the debate rage on.

Can GSP take down Johny Hendricks? This is one you'll hear a lot over the next few months. It's a good question, but just remember that MMA isn't wrestling.

Hey referees, what's the deal? OK, this is hardly a new question or concern. Call it a reminder that referees and judges hold immense power over fighters, and Dan Miragliotta's back-of-the-head block party in the Patrick Cote-Alessio Sakara contest was shoddy work. Officials must be held accountable.

Is Canada the UFC's top market? Montreal came out to see St-Pierre to the tune of a $3.1 million gate. Not quite a sellout, but 17,149 fans in attendance at the Bell Centre isn't bad. If Canada remains in the top spot, that gap has closed in a big way with the rise of Brazil.

Five matches to make

St-Pierre vs. Silva: Well, yeah. Still needs to be said. The potential for this fight has reached critical mass. And I want to see it because I'm not in the camp that thinks GSP will be outgunned against Silva if they meet at a catchweight around 180 pounds.

St-Pierre vs. Hendricks: Part of me wants the champion to take on Hendricks next. There are more than a few entertaining possibilities for GSP at 170, and Hendricks' power, wrestling prowess and get-'em attitude all smack of the right stuff.

Condit vs. Kampmann: Sure, it's a rematch, and others to fight are out there, but their first contest in 2009 was tremendous. Before the St-Pierre loss, it stood out as Condit's lone blemish in 14 fights.

Rafael dos Anjos vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov: Nurmagomedov needs to beat Thiago Tavares first, and if he does, a fight with dos Anjos is one I want to see. Dos Anjos is extremely physical, and his athleticism is beginning to shine through when he fights. Nurmagomedov seems to possess the correct ingredients to challenge the Brazilian lightweight.

Darren Elkins vs. Chan Sung Jung: Time for a step up for Elkins, who's unbeaten in four fights at 145 pounds and looked really good Saturday against Steven Siler. Jung could be too big of a leap, as the Korean Zombie is one of UFC's biggest names in the division, and he seems set up for a title shot. But Elkins' grappling pressure is something I'd like to see against Jung.

Stock report

Georges St-Pierre: Up. Returning for the first time in more than a year and a half, the UFC champion was impressive in all facets. He took on a legit threat in his return, no tuneup here, and now the 31-year-old Canadian is lined up for the biggest payday of his career or another tough test at 170. The sky is still the limit for St-Pierre.

Carlos Condit: Steady. True, he fell short. But Condit proved he deserved to be in the cage with St-Pierre, going so far as to dare to hurt the champion in Round 3. There will be plenty of fights for Condit, and people will want to watch.

Johny Hendricks: Up. Way up. A title shot is likely next. People want to see him fight GSP, and some will think he's the guy to dethrone the champion. Either way, Hendricks' attitude continues to be great. The guy is having a great time, and he's just figuring this fighting stuff out.

Francis Carmont: Down. This was a reality check. The judges split and sided with Carmont, but he didn't look particularly dangerous against Tom Lawlor. A win is a win, but momentum behind Carmont was slowed for the time being.

Mark Hominick: Down. Four straight losses for Hominick starting with Jose Aldo last year says it all. He'll stick around the UFC despite the bad streak, but Hominick comes off as exposed and utterly beatable.

Notes and nuggets for UFC 154

November, 16, 2012
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
TBDCourtesy of
MONTREAL -- The fight game is always two steps ahead of itself. So it's only natural that most of the people assembled in Montreal to see Georges St-Pierre defend his title against Carlos Condit are focusing on more distant possibilities. Like, will St-Pierre fight Anderson Silva if he gets through Condit?

St-Pierre has coolly told anybody and everybody who's bothered to ask that he isn't thinking about Silva. When informed that Silva will be in Montreal to see him fight, surely not by any kind of coincidence, St-Pierre said he wouldn't be uncivil and ignore him. He would at least say hello. But right now he is focused on Condit. You know, Condit, the reason we're all here.

But the specter of Silva is everywhere.

Martin Kampmann's wrestling coach Kyle Griffin said at least half the questions directed at Kampmann were about St-Pierre-Silva. Never mind that Kampmann is thrice removed. Dan Hardy has been asked to break down a fight between Silva-St-Pierre, too, by ESPN U.K. and others.

If the periphery is being quizzed on the fight, imagine what the monkey wrench in the scenario must be thinking.

People forget that Condit is standing right there in the room. How does he feel being the invisible obstacle?

"It's fine, man. I'm used to being overlooked," he told "You know, when I fought Nick Diaz [at UFC 143], they were talking about the Georges St-Pierre-Nick Diaz fight next. No big deal for me. I'm focused on Georges St-Pierre."

Open workouts a strange bit of theater

The UFC 154 open workouts were a little misleading Thursday. For starters, what people were doing in the cage at the New City Gas nightclub in Montreal couldn't rightly be called a workout. Closer to performance art, really.

It began with Tom Lawlor, who was wearing his standard Ambrose Burnside whiskers and a Sheraton bathrobe. He and his cornermen -- Seth Petruzelli and Kyle Holland -- did the media rounds in white robes before they were ushered to the cage. Underneath the robes? Adult diapers. Oddly clumpy but perfect for the faux sumo wrestling tournament they engaged in.

St-Pierre arrived to a nice ovation with his entourage (among them Francis Carmont, Phil Nurse and John Donaher), and they entered the cage and proceeded to, like, span time. St-Pierre signed shirts, gloves and action figures. He casually talked to Nurse. He tossed memorabilia to his fans. All this generosity was backdropped by the thumping sounds of 2 Chainz’s "No Lie." At one point, St-Pierre stretched; this was the only move toward anything athletic.

Just brawl, baby

Martin KampmannMark Kolbe/Getty ImagesDespite his ability as a technical striker, Martin Kampmann can't seem to avoid getting into brawls.
One of the things about Kampmann that makes his fight with Johny Hendricks predictable is that he likes to stand in the pocket and swing. We've seen him trade with Nate Marquardt, Paul Daley, Diego Sanchez and Jake Ellenberger.

Sometimes he gets hacked down. Sometimes he gets hacked down but gets back up. Sometimes he flattens his opponent (don't remind Alexandre Barros). You ask the Dane's cornermen if Kampmann digresses from the game plan, and they laugh. That's just him, they say, a technical striker who can't help becoming a technical brawler.

"He just loves to fight," Xtreme Couture's Griffin said.

You have to wonder, though, how it plays out against a heavy-handed wrestler like Hendricks. Kampmann was able to weather Ellenberger's first-round onslaught to come back and win. Ditto Thiago Alves in March. It's true that Kampmann has been the picture of endurance and perseverance in his run back into welterweight contention, but the reality is he had to come back because he put himself in trouble to begin with.

Bottom line: If he puts himself into a bad spot against Hendricks, there may be no coming back. Then again, if he wins dramatically, as he did in his previous fights in 2012 against Alves and Ellenberger, Kampmann has to be considered for fighter of the year.

Hendricks adds right hand to heavy arsenal

November, 16, 2012
McNeil By Franklin McNeil

MONTREAL -- It’s easy to spot Johny Hendricks among the fighters who are scheduled to compete Saturday night at Bell Centre: He’s the one with the biggest smile on his face.

Hendricks has exuded nothing but happiness in the days leading into his UFC 154 welterweight title eliminator against Martin Kampmann. And it isn’t nervous energy.

Hendricks is primed for battle, mentally and physically. He points to the six months that have passed since his split-decision win over Josh Koscheck in May.

“My weight is 10 pounds over [the 170-pound limit],” Hendricks told on Thursday. “That’s the best I’ve been for any fight. I’m just excited.

“Fighting every four months would be perfect. But sometimes it’s good to step away. That’s what I did this last fight and I came back hungrier and stronger to fight again. I needed to step away and be a family man, spend time with the girls. It made me that more excited to fight again."

Wrestling remains Hendricks’ base discipline, but his striking skills -- punching in particular -- have gotten much attention in the past year. The focus has centered on Hendricks’ powerful left hand. But during preparation for this fight against Kampmann he expanded his striking range.

It’s a major reason Hendricks believes his striking game is on par with Kampmann’s.

“My power gives me [an edge] on the feet,” Hendricks said. “No matter what, he knows he can’t eat too many of my left hands.

“Also, my left hand now creates other shots. If he’s defending my left hand or even my hook, my hook has gotten stronger, lead uppercut has gotten stronger.

“That’s what I focused on these past several months. Everybody’s looking for this thing [left hand], but now it might be this thing [right hand] that knocks you out.”

Hendricks said he hurt a few training partners during training camp with a variety of punches. And he did the damage wearing 8-ounce boxing gloves -- while his sparring partners donned headgear. Oh, and by the way, Hendricks points out that the damage was done with his right hand.

Despite the improvements in his stand-up game, Hendricks expects his wrestling to play a major role during the fight.

“My stand-up is much better,” Hendricks said. “It might just open up my wrestling.

“It’s been six months since I last stepped in the Octagon; a lot has changed. I can’t wait.”

Kampmann: Silva-GSP not a superfight

November, 13, 2012
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
Hendricks-Fitch Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesSlow and steady might win the race, but it's a plan likely to get you knocked out against Johny Hendricks.
LAS VEGAS -- Martin Kampmann has a plan for UFC 154.

It starts with knocking out Johny Hendricks in the co-main event -- a logical place to start.

Next is securing a fight against Carlos Condit or Georges St-Pierre, who are scheduled to unify the UFC welterweight title in the main event.

This is where the plan gets a little ... unique.

“I’m just going to knock Johny out and stay in the [Octagon],” Kampmann told “That makes it easier. I’ll just stay in there. One of them will have to fight me.”

It’s likely the good folks of the Bell Centre security team in Montreal will eventually remove Kampmann from the cage. But you get the point.

The soft-spoken welterweight believes a win over Hendricks elevates him to the top of the division -- now.

Should Condit upset St-Pierre in the main event, Kampmann might get his wish. Other than an immediate rematch with the Canadian (depending on how the fight goes), Kampmann would likely be first in line to challenge Condit for the title. He is responsible for Condit’s only loss in the Octagon, a split decision in 2009.

If St-Pierre wins, it’s not as easy. The UFC appears focused on promoting a superfight between St-Pierre and middleweight champion Anderson Silva in 2013.

Kampmann acknowledges he has something to gain if that fight falls through but said if a superfight does take place, it should be between Silva and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

“I think [St-Pierre] is going to get knocked out. That’s my honest answer,” said Kampmann, on what would happen in a Silva-St-Pierre fight. “Everything aside, I’d much rather see Anderson Silva fight Jon Jones. [Silva] is calling out the smaller guy. I’d like to see him fight Jon Jones. I think that’s a much more interesting fight, and that’s not just from my personal perspective. It’s also from a fan’s perspective.”

Everything aside, I'd much rather see Anderson Silva fight Jon Jones. [Silva] is calling out the smaller guy. I'd like to see him fight Jon Jones. I think that's a much more interesting fight and that's not just from my personal perspective. It's also from a fan's perspective.

-- Martin Kampmann, on why a bout between Silva and Jones -- not Silva and Georges St. Pierre -- would be the super-fight

Kampmann (20-5) said he understands everything starts with the first part of his plan: beating Hendricks. He is well aware of how dangerous his opponent this month is. The two used to train with each other in Las Vegas.

They were never best friends but were close enough that Kampmann stored an extra bed he owned at Hendricks’ house because there was no room for it in his apartment. They are definitely familiar.

Kampmann said he can’t afford another slow start like the one he overcame in a win over Jake Ellenberger. Whereas he knew he had to weather a storm with Ellenberger, Kampmann said Hendricks is dangerous at all times.

“He’s a very strong guy with knockout power,” Kampmann said. “Combine that with some of the best wrestling pedigree in the UFC and you’re bound to succeed.

“I know this opponent way better than a lot of others I’ve had. I feel confident going into the fight. At the same time, you can change a lot in a couple years, so I’m not coming in with the mindset of ‘this is how Johny fights.’ I have to come in with an open mind and be ready for whatever.”

Hendricks confident best is yet to come

November, 13, 2012
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
Johny HendricksDave Mandel/

When it comes to mixed martial artists, one would be hard-pressed to find a fighter more at peace before a high-profile bout than Johny Hendricks.

The former Oklahoma State University wrestling All-American isn’t one to get involved in verbal tit-for-tats with upcoming opponents. But heading into his Saturday night bout against Martin Kampmann, a UFC welterweight title eliminator, Hendricks is revealing a little hostility.

Hendricks’ hard feelings stem from Kampmann's vowing to knock him out and their days training together at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. Hendricks says that time became a source of his confidence.

“I’ve worked hard and I’ve beaten some tough dudes to get my title shot, and right now Johny Hendricks is in my way -- and I’m going to knock his a-- out to get it,” Kampmann said in a UFC 154 promotional clip.

“Hendricks punches with a lot of power and his punches come from different angles, but his biggest strength is his wrestling. I used to train with him in Vegas. I still feel I’m a lot slicker than him. My wrestling has come a long way, so I reckon I can beat his a-- and defend the takedown.”

Hendricks doesn’t hesitate to admit that Kampmann often got the better of him in sparring when they trained together at Xtreme Couture from 2007 until 2008. But that’s when Hendricks was a very raw fighter, an infant in MMA.

Hendricks' peaceful nature dissipates when he reflects on his experience training with Kampmann.

“I trained with him for about a year and a half,” Hendricks told “The thing is that about the last half of the year he didn’t want to train with me anymore. That’s why I transferred over to Striking Unlimited.

“Once I got to a point where I could somewhat compete with these guys, they didn’t want to train with me anymore. They wanted to learn from me, learn my wrestling, but once I got to where I could learn from them, to strike with them, they didn’t give back like I thought they would.

“They stopped working out with me, and that’s when I went to Striking Unlimited, which was a blessing in disguise.”

When Hendricks entered MMA, striking was a glaring hole in his game. He took his share of lumps from more seasoned strikers -- Phil Baroni once knocked him out during a sparring session.

I trained with him for about a year and a half. The thing is that about the last half of the year he didn't want to train with me anymore. That's why I transferred over to Striking Unlimited.

-- Johny Hendricks, on training in the past with Martin Kampmann

But at the new gym, Hendricks never felt anyone was out to take advantage of him. He’d dispense his wrestling knowledge while learning valuable stand-up techniques from teammates.

And Hendricks proved to be a quick learner. He absorbed everything -- from always being in the proper stance, to moving his head side to side and keeping his hands high, to accurately moving his feet.

These days Hendricks is as dangerous a fighter standing as he is wrestling. His ability to sit on his punches has made him one of the most feared strikers in the 170-pound division.

“When I started in MMA, I knew that I had to get people scared of me, scared of my hands,” Hendricks said. “I really needed to work on my stand-up; that way, people would start really fearing my hands. That would make the takedowns much easier.

“Now my stand-up has gotten to the point where I can choose which way I want to go -- standing or taking a fight to the ground. That’s a huge confidence builder.”

Hendricks will take a ton of confidence into his fight with Kampmann. And like his opponent, a large chunk of that confidence can be attributed to their days at Xtreme Couture.
[+] EnlargeHendricks/Funch
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comWell-grounded: Johny Hendricks has taken strides to develop his grappling game.

Kampmann is a solid fighter, and Hendricks is aware of it. He has experienced Kampmann’s skills firsthand. But it’s that experience with Kampmann in the gym -- while observing his progress over the past few years -- that has Hendricks salivating when thoughts of their fight at Bell Centre in Montreal enter his mind.

“Kampmann’s at his peak,” Hendricks said. “When we trained together, he already knew everything about striking; he was already in the UFC fighting at 185. He’s added a few things, but not much. Once you hit your peak, it’s hard to add new stuff. But he is durable and he is tough.

“I was there with him when he started cutting down to 170; I’ve known this guy for a while. For him to sit there and say that I haven’t developed is just nonsense. I’m not the fighter I was two years ago or a year ago; I’m so much more advanced.”

Hendricks wants it known that his growth as a mixed martial artist isn’t limited to wrestling and striking. He is very confident in his submission game and would be overjoyed if he gets to show it off Saturday night, if the opportunity presents itself.

“I go to New York City and train with [Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt] Marcelo Garcia after every fight, and sometimes during training camp,” Hendricks said. “My jiu-jitsu is actually better than my stand-up. It’s just that so far I haven’t had the opportunity to show it.

“I want to show more of my [grappling] game, so that people know that I’m more than just a wrestler. I have a strong ground game and feel more comfortable with it. I’m improving constantly. I’m constantly learning all aspects. I haven’t hit my peak yet.”