Martin Kampmann once climbed most of the way up the ladder in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
This time he hopes to make it to the top rung.
The Las Vegan had amassed an impressive 12-1 mark, including three wins in the UFC, in which he finally earned a spot in the main event of a pay-per-view card.
But while training for that fight against Rich Franklin in June 2007, Kampmann tore several ligaments in his knee and was forced to withdraw.
The injury cost Kampmann a year in his prime, but he returned and picked up where he left off with a first-round submission victory over Jorge Rivera in June in London.
He says his knee is almost fully healed.
“I felt good (in the return bout) and I feel good now,” Kampmann said.
The 26-year-old now faces the most important fight of his career against Nate Marquardt on a UFC card Saturday at Atlanta. Marquardt took on Anderson Silva — unsuccessfully — for the middleweight title last year, and a victory over the veteran could propel Kampmann into contention for that same middleweight belt, still held by Silva.
“(A win would put me) closer to a title shot for sure. I don’t know how close, but definitely closer. That’s not up to me,” Kampmann said, smiling.
He knows getting a victory Saturday won’t be easy. He has been unable to find many weaknesses while watching video of Marquardt’s fights.
“I study my opponents a lot,” he said. “It’s difficult with this guy, though, because he’s so well rounded.”
Kampmann had moved to Las Vegas before he suffered his knee injury. He returned to his native Denmark to rehab, but is now back as a full-time resident of the valley.
He feels the move was good for his career because of the training partners and facilities available at the Xtreme Couture training center, but there are also other advantages.
“I miss the ocean and a little nature would be nice,” he said. “But I like the temperature better here than at home. Denmark (has) only like three good months a year.”
Franklin also will be on Saturday’s card, making his light heavyweight debut against Matt Hamill. In the main event, Chuck Liddell returns from his hamstring injury to face unbeaten Rashad Evans.
• SLICE FIGHT SCHEDULED — The good news for MMA fans is that Kimbo Slice finally will step into the cage with a well-rounded fighter that has had success at the highest level.
The bad news is that his next opponent, 44-year-old Ken Shamrock, is at least 10 years removed from his peak and is 1-7 in his last eight bouts.
Still, the fight will feature two big names in the sport.
The bout will headline EliteXC’s third CBS show on Oct. 4.
It will be the fourth professional fight for Slice, the Internet legend street fighter. He has won all three bouts, but was tested for the first time in his win over James Thompson in May.
The card also features Las Vegan Gina Carano taking on Kelly Kobald.
• ORTIZ STILL UNSIGNED — The update on former UFC light heavyweight champion and current free agent Tito Ortiz is that there is no update.
On several occasions over the last month, rumors have circulated that Ortiz had signed with one organization or another. Some of those rumors were even based on comments made by Ortiz.
But, as of Monday, he still had no contract.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@ reviewjournal.com or 702-274-5509.