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. ESPN.com ranks Condit third overall, while UFC.com 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 ESPN.com and UFC.com, respectively.
“Absolutely, it is [a must-win situation],” the 29-year-old Condit told ESPN.com. “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.”