Just when Las Vegan Martin Kampmann appeared to be nearing the final rung on the hierarchy of contenders in his quest for an elusive Ultimate Fighting Championship title shot, the ladder may have been stretched out right before his eyes.
A win over Johny Hendricks at UFC 154 on Saturday in Montreal should make Kampmann the clear-cut No. 1 contender to the welterweight belt.
By no means will that position automatically equate to an opportunity to fight for the belt anytime soon.
The organization seems to have grand plans for Georges St. Pierre, who returns from an 18-month absence because of knee surgery to defend his belt against interim champion Carlos Condit in the main event, to move up in weight for a megafight against middleweight champ Anderson Silva, provided St. Pierre emerges victorious.
It’s a scenario the 30-year-old Kampmann is well aware of, but not one that he will admit to spending a whole lot of time pondering.
“I don’t want to see that fight, because I want to fight for the title,” Kampmann said last week before departing for Canada. “There’s a lot of buts and ifs in that whole situation, so I don’t want to give it too much thought. My main priority is beating Johny Hendricks, and then I can start worrying about that stuff after.
“Georges St. Pierre’s main priority should be beating Carlos Condit. If he starts thinking ahead, he could get knocked out. Then, it’s a completely different situation.”
Kampmann has a plan to ensure he gets a title shot right away.
“I’m just going to knock Johny out and stay in the cage,” he said jokingly. “It makes it much easier. Then one of them will have to fight me.”
For what it’s worth, Kampmann thinks the UFC is pursuing the wrong superfight. He says Silva moving up to take on light heavyweight champion Jon Jones would be a more intriguing bout. He also acknowledged that would be a self-serving matchup, as it would clear the welterweight champion to defend the belt.
As if all that isn’t enough, there is also the Nick Diaz dilemma looming on the horizon. Diaz, also a welterweight, is incredibly marketable and will return from a marijuana suspension in early 2013, just in time to be thrust into a title bout.
Kampmann has had practice dealing with missing out on a title shot. He thought he had one wrapped up with a victory over Jake Shields in 2010, but the judges awarded Shields a controversial split decision. He then lost another controversial decision to Diego Sanchez, but has since reeled off three straight wins.
Kampmann insists he has avoided thinking about any of the hypotheticals involved with the title picture. His entire focus is on Hendricks, who spent time early in his career training with Kampmann at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.
Hendricks was raw as a mixed martial artist at the time, but Kampmann isn’t surprised that his former training partner has evolved into one of the top 170-pound fighters in the world.
“I think he’s a very strong guy with knockout power. Combine that with some of the best wrestling pedigree in the UFC and you’re bound to succeed,” Kampmann said of the two-time NCAA champion and four-time All-American at Oklahoma State. “I think wrestling is the best background you can have for MMA. That’s one of the reasons I’ve worked so hard on my wrestling. I’m not surprised he’s done so well.”
Kampmann worked with Hendricks on his standup, and Hendricks helped Kampmann improve his wrestling during their time training together. While Kampmann thinks he knows Hendricks’ game well, he’s also taking a cautious approach.
“You can change a lot in a couple years. I can’t go in there with the mindset of, ‘Oh, this is how Johny fights,’ ” Kampmann said. “You could be caught off guard like, ‘Oh (expletive), what was that?’ I have to go in there with an open mind and be ready for whatever.”
After that, he will become a Condit fan.
“For me, it would be better for Carlos to win. Especially because I have a win over him (in 2009), and I know he wants to rematch, so of course,” Kampmann said. “At the same time, I’d like to fight GSP. He’s the all-time best welterweight, and that’s who I’d like to beat.”
That matchup might just take a bit longer to materialize.
The card airs live on pay per view at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.