Martin Kampmann is starting to make a habit of rising from the ashes.
Just as he did in his March conflict with Thiago Alves, in which the Dane locked up a fight-ending guillotine choke after losing the majority of three rounds, Kampmann took out Jake Ellenberger at “The Ultimate Fighter 15” Finale after surviving an early scare. Unlike in his bout with Alves, however, Kampmann did not wait for the fight’s waning moments to pull out a submission, instead delivering a knockout in the second of five scheduled frames.
Kampmann ate a hard left hook to the jaw in the bout’s opening seconds, hitting the canvas as Ellenberger pounced to finish the job in their welterweight headliner at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. However, Kampmann survived, weathering the storm of punches and then working on a guillotine choke while he regained his senses.
“I remember getting punched pretty good,” Kampmann said at the post-fight press conference. “I got hit a little more than I wanted to, but I’m glad I was able to come back and get the win. He was kind of stuck in my guard for a while, and I was able to get my composure back, and in round two I felt good again.”
The second stanza proved to be a different story for Kampmann, who clipped “The Juggernaut” with a short right hand to the temple that briefly put him on ice skates. The Dane jumped on his wounded prey, backing Ellenberger against the cage and blasting him with a series of knees from the clinch that put the American down and signaled referee Steve Mazzagatti to quickly wave off the contest.
When asked if he thought the stoppage was just considering the amount of time he received to recover in round one, Kampmann could not speak with certainty, instead commenting on his ability to persevere despite sustaining punishment early on.
“I’m going to have to watch it on tape again to know whether it was a good stoppage, but you can never count me out,” said Kampmann. “I’ll always be there fighting to the very end, so don’t stop the fight if I’m the one that is hurt.”
Known as a notoriously slow starter, Kampmann joked about his process of finding his rhythm after the bout, remarking that his trainer, K-1 veteran Ray Sefo, may need to punch him more during warm-ups in order to ensure a sprint out of the gate. That notwithstanding, Kampmann says that despite his reputation, he always hopes to avoid damage whenever possible.
“I would definitely prefer to get hit less,” Kampmann said. “I’m going to get in trouble with the wife when I get home looking like this. Not getting hit is definitely preferable.”
With Ellenberger now in his rear-view mirror, Kampmann has his sights set on the murky welterweight title picture. Reigning champion Georges St. Pierre is currently sidelined indefinitely due to a torn ACL, and interim titlist Carlos Condit has elected to wait for St. Pierre to return, leaving Kampmann’s place in the 170-pound pecking order unclear.
With fellow contender Johny Hendricks also riding a wave of momentum toward the top of the division, many are pegging the bearded southpaw as Kampmann’s next foe. Though that bout could serve as a legitimate title eliminator, Kampmann says he plans to take his path to the title one fight at a time.
“You can never know you have a title shot until the bout agreements are signed,” said Kampmann. “I try not to look ahead. I try to focus on the fight ahead of me, and tonight I was fighting Jake. He was a really tough opponent, and I have a lot of respect for him. I couldn’t look past him. I want to fight for the title, but you have to focus on the task at hand.
“My goal is to fight for the title. That’s where I want to go. I’d love to get a fight with Condit or [St. Pierre], or the winner of that fight. Johny has some great wins too, and if I have to fight him to get that shot, then that’s what we’ll do.”