“I feel that if you’re not improving, you’re gonna get left behind. So I try to keep an open mind and improve in all aspects of the game – striking, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu."
For a classy young man who has probably earned a few good karma points over the years, Martin Kampmann sure has found his share of bad luck during his stint in the UFC.
Whether it was seeing a possible middleweight title shot disappear when he was injured before a UFC 72 fight against Rich Franklin or getting thisclose to a welterweight championship bout before getting knocked out by late replacement Paul Daley at UFC 103, Kampmann hasn’t been blessed by the Gods of good fortune. So as he prepares for another pivotal bout – Saturday’s UFC 121 co-main event against Jake Shields – I had to ask whether “The Hitman” has been a little more superstitious than usual.
“Actually I had a black cat cross the road this morning,” he deadpanned before breaking out into a laugh. “Well, you spit over your shoulder and it evens it out.”
That’s basically how Kampmann sees things, in life and in his fighting career. What may seem like bad luck to some are just lessons to be learned and applied elsewhere. So there’s little time for complaining or crying ‘woe is me.’ When Kampmann falls down, he gets right back up.
And since the loss to Daley in September of 2009, his first defeat at 170 pounds and only his second in 10 UFC bouts, Kampmann has been in his best form yet, first submitting Jacob Volkmann in January and then putting together a stellar three round unanimous decision win over Paulo Thiago. The Thiago fight was one where the well-rounded Kampmann put everything together, and he dominated from start to finish.
“I felt really good in that fight,” said Kampmann. “But there are still a lot of things I would have liked to have done better. I always try to look back at the fights and see what I could improve on. And even though I’m happy with my performance overall, I still look at what I did wrong so I can go back in the training room and correct that. I still made mistakes in that fight, and most of all, I would have loved to have finished him. I think I came close to finishing him a lot of times in the fight, especially in the last round when I had him in a pretty good choke and the time ran out. I would have loved to have a little bit more time there. I don’t like to win decisions. I want to finish the fights.”
It’s this mindset – not only about finishing fights, but of never being satisfied with his performances and continuing the quest to get better – that has made Kampmann a popular fighter among his peers as well as fans. He’s no nonsense, no frills, and a fighter’s fighter. Just look at Shields’ thoughts on Kampmann from his official UFC bio:
“He is a very tough and well rounded opponent. Well rounded gets used a lot, but Kampmann really fits the bill.”
The 28-year old native of Aarhus, Denmark is humbled by the praise.
“I appreciate it and I always try to improve my game,” he said. “I feel that if you’re not improving, you’re gonna get left behind. So I try to keep an open mind and improve in all aspects of the game – striking, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu. I respect Jake Shields and his game a lot and I think he’s a great fighter and a dangerous fighter as well.”
So when Kampmann finished up his win over Thiago and made the trip to Denmark with his wife to have a formal wedding with family and friends (they were previously married in Las Vegas), he came back to a bout with one of the top 170-pounders in the game in Shields, who is making his highly-anticipated UFC debut at the Honda Center.
“I’ve seen some of his fights and I know he was one of the top guys in the welterweight division outside of the UFC, so I think he’s definitely the best fighter I can get coming from outside the UFC,” said Kampmann. “He’s got a great name and he’s got a lot of hype behind him, especially now after he beat Dan Henderson so I think it’s a great opportunity to fight him.”
It’s an opportunity Kampmann has the skill, determination, and heart to make the most of. But even if he does come up short, you won’t hear him crying about it. It’s just not his way. Instead, he’ll just get back up again.
“I love training and I love fighting,” he said. “This used to be a hobby for me. Now I can make a living off what started off as a hobby and only a few people are able to do that. I’m happy, I make a great living, and I feel fortunate.”