Carlos Condit has never been afraid of the moment. | Photo: Dave Mandel
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- By landing a hard left hook to former title contender Dan Hardy’s face at UFC 120 in October, Carlos Condit was able to finally hear what had eluded him in the weeks leading up to his co-main event bout with the cocksure British striker: beautiful silence.
“I knocked out the hometown boy,” Condit tells Sherdog.com. “It was silent, except for my dad, my wife and my best friend, who were in the crowd. You can hear it on the video; you can hear my wife just screaming like crazy, because she was probably about the only one.”
The other 17,000-plus fans at the O2 Arena in London were in a state of collective shock after the knockout. Hardy, a former No. 1 contender, had done little to hide his disregard for Condit’s abilities prior to their welterweight showdown. By the time Hardy had gathered himself enough to apologize to those in attendance, it was clear that doubting Condit had been a mistake.
It was the second time in 2010 that the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative had done the improbable in an opponent’s backyard; the first being his come-from-behind technical knockout of Canadian Rory MacDonald at UFC 115 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Condit has never been afraid of the moment. At age 15, when he first became serious about fighting, the native New Mexican sparred with grown men while learning under Greg Jackson black belt Tom Vaughn.
“[These were] guys in their early 20s and 30s who were very well-versed fighters, and I could hang in there with them. Nobody could have foreseen how huge the sport would become, but when it came to just standing there and fighting with somebody, I knew that was something I could do,” Condit says.
He has done it well ever since, from winning his first professional bout when he was 18 years old and capturing the World Extreme Cagefighting welterweight belt at 23 to becoming one of the top contenders for the UFC strap at his current age of 27.
At UFC 132 “Cruz vs. Faber 2” on Saturday in Las Vegas, “The Natural Born Killer” faces a similar rising talent in undefeated Korean Dong Hyun Kim, a fourth degree black belt in judo with an unbeaten mark in the UFC. The “Stun Gun” owns wins over Jason Tan, Matt Brown, T.J. Grant, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 winner Amir Sadollah and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner Nate Diaz during that time but lacks a signature victory to rival Condit’s.
“Lately, I definitely think that I’ve been fighting tougher guys,” Condit says. “Kim came into the UFC without a huge name, so they gave him fights to build himself up; whereas I had already made a name for myself, so right out the gate, I was fighting top-notch opponents.”
Kim figures to employ an attack that will keep Condit on his back for the majority of their encounter. Condit is aware of the difficulties that his opponent presents.
“It is a tough matchup for me, but I love a challenge. I think that I have the tools to come out on top,” Condit says. “We have some great wrestlers in here [at Jackson’s]. We have some guys that have some really good throws and we have guys with great jiu-jitsu and ground games. I definitely think we’ll be prepared.
“I’m sure I’m bound to be taken down in this fight,” he adds. “The question is can he dictate the fight with his takedowns? Am I gonna be able to get back up and implement my game, [or] be able to attack off my back, which is something that I have in my arsenal?”
Condit believes the winner of the bout should have a say in the welterweight title picture very soon. Current champion Georges St. Pierre will face Nick Diaz in October, but St. Pierre has already beaten many of the top contenders in the division. Condit is part of a new batch of challengers -- along with fighters like MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger, to name a few -- that could inject some life into the weight class.
“I have a lot of experience, and I’m constantly improving my game, but, yeah, there are definitely some really tough guys that are going to be making a case for themselves to get title shots soon,” Condit says.
For the former WEC champion, getting that shot would likely mean going through a Jackson’s MMA teammate in St. Pierre. While such a scenario is not Condit’s first choice, he recognizes that it is the nature of the business.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that it wouldn’t be a difficult thing to fight a teammate, but on the other hand, we’re all trying to be the best in the world,” he says. “I think that I would fight anybody who had the belt.”
It has been more than eight months since Condit flashed his Zia mouthpiece -- a tribute to his home state -- in triumph after stunning Hardy in London. A knee injury forced him out of a proposed fight with Chris Lytle at UFC 127 in February, but Condit claims to be 100 percent healthy after rehabilitation work at the Southwest Sports Institute.
“I dislocated my kneecap. Luckily, I didn’t have any torn ligaments or anything,” he says. “It was very disappointing. I was feeling great going into that fight. I didn’t take any time off after the Hardy fight. I think that I’ve regrouped and recuperated, and I’m ready to continue my run.”
A win over Kim at UFC 132 would go a long way toward extending that hot streak and elevating Condit’s status in the division.
“I think it puts me in a good position to either get a title shot or a fight for [the right to be considered the] No. 1 contender,” he says.
That is the kind of talk Condit would not mind hearing a little more often.