A new feature I am bringing to the faithful readers at Bloody Elbow puts the focus on teams around mixed martial arts. Throughout 2011 I will be providing different looks at not only the individual fighters that make up the teams but also what being apart of a collective of professionals who are all aimed towards success. Everyday a new fighter will be featured and at the end of the week a team perspective will run to close out the coverage. When the cage doors close it's one on one but in the quiet before the storm, iron sharpens iron in gyms all across America.
This week's featured team is Xtreme Couture.
Danish striker Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann is looking to erase a previous setback against Jake Shields and make his way back to the top. Standing in his way is original TUF winner Diego "The Nightmare" Sanchez who is also fighting for a return to contention. They are slated for a showdown at UFC Live on Versus 3 in Louisville Kentucky on March 3rd and with the fight quickly approaching I caught up with "The Hitman". In his Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview we talked about squaring off with Sanchez and earning his shot at welterweight gold.
"My regiment changes from day to day as to what I'm doing but training is going great so far," Kampmann stated as he described his training. "I'm working hard. Right now I'm focusing on conditioning and doing less strength work with sparring in the afternoon. I am switching it up from big gloves to small gloves depending what I'm working on."
In his most recent outing, Kampmann was issued the challenge of welcoming Jake Shields to the UFC. After a close first round, Kampmann took the momentum as two brutal knees put Shields on the ropes. Going into the final frame it was anyone's fight and after scoring early in the round, Kampmann went for the submission finish and this ultimately proved to be the deciding factor. Shields escaped the choke and finished the round in top position and the judge's awarded him the split-decision victory.
"I think it was definitely a fight I could have won and should have won," Kampmann answered when asked about the fight with Shields. "I gave that fight away by making stupid mistakes. I was trying too hard to finish him and went after the submission when I should have stuck to punching him some more in the face. I think I could have won the fight and having given the fight away I'm obviously disappointed in my own performance. I'm going to come back and beat up Diego instead now."
Up next for Kampmann is the cardio machine known as Diego Sanchez. "The Nightmare" experienced a recent rough patch but after returning to his roots with Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, Sanchez appears to be back on track.
"He is a tough fighter," Kampmann stated. "He has a lot of fights in the UFC so I'm preparing for a tough one. He likes to push a high pace so I'm prepared for that and I've been working with some southpaws. Unfortunately we don't have a lot of southpaws at the gym but that is one thing I'm focusing on. Other than that it's just business as usual and I'm training hard. I expect him to try to take me down but I'm not going to let him. I'm going to punish him for trying."
Kampmann continued, "I think my biggest advantage will be in the stand up. He's well rounded as well but back in the day he was taking people down and outworking them. Just getting them with the ground and pound and I think that's what he is going to try to do to me. Obviously it's not something I'm going to let him do. If he does manage to get me down I'm going to work hard to get back up and make sure that I punish him everywhere we go."
Despite Sanchez's affinity for the teachings of self-improvement guru Tony Robbins, the inventor of the "yes cartwheel" faced a dark stretch after the beating he took at the hands of B.J. Penn. Sanchez vacated his top ranked position in the lightweight division in hopes of a renewed spark at welterweight but unfortunately for Diego, the young Brit John Hathaway had other plans. Hathaway worked the original TUF winner from pillar to post and after suffering back to back losses doubt loomed.. After bouncing back against Thiago, his confidence seems to have returned but questions still remain.
"He had two fights where he didn't look good against B.J. and John Hathaway," Kampmann explained. "People have to understand that sometimes that happens and you have a bad day in the cage. Sometimes you have a few bad days back to back but he looked good in his last fight against Thiago and he's back to training at Jackson's so I think he's back to his old self. I'm definitely expecting to see the best Diego Sanchez there is so that's what I'm preparing for."
A win over Sanchez in Louisville will keep Kampmann's name amongst the division's best. With several of the weight class's other high profile fighters also in action, the race to the top of the division could be intense in 2011.
"I think a win definitely puts me close to a title shot," Kampmann answered when asked about the divisional picture. "I had a little setback with the split-decision loss to Shields and honestly I would love to fight him again but my goal is to get a title shot. It doesn't matter who I have to fight to get there I'll take it. Right now Diego Sanchez is standing in front of me so that's the guy I have to beat up."