Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 | 2 a.m.
UFC Primetime: St. Pierre vs. Condit episode 2
Martin Kampmann had a feeling it was good news the first time Johny Hendricks walked into the Xtreme Couture gym.
Kampmann knew Hendricks as a two-time NCAA wrestling champion from Oklahoma State who was looking to further break into the mixed martial arts world. Hendricks knew Kampmann as a skilled Danish striker who had just started his UFC career.
Their individual strengths were each other’s weaknesses, meaning they made ideal training partners.
“I was helping him get his stand-up better, he was helping me with my wrestling,” Kampmann said. “We had a beneficial training relationship.”
Four years later, Kampmann and Hendricks are as well rounded as anyone in the UFC’s welterweight class and one step away from fighting for a title. They meet in the co-main event of UFC 154 Saturday in Montreal in a bout expected to determine the 170-pound division’s next top contender.
Since the start of 2011, the two fighters have gone a combined 7-1 with the lone loss being Kampmann’s highly controversial unanimous decision against Diego Sanchez.
“I taught Martin Kampmann how to wrestle,” Hendricks said through the UFC. “I taught him how to defend shots for the longest time. To finally get to fight somebody like that, I’m just so excited. I can’t wait.”
Kampmann disagrees with the notion that Hendricks showed him everything he knows about wrestling. Kampmann wasn’t exactly unaware of how to take or defend a double-leg takedown before Hendricks came into his life.
“I think that would be pushing it,” Kampmann said of Hendricks’ comment. “I could wrestle before, but he definitely showed me a lot of good wrestling.”
Hendricks fought in the WEC, the UFC’s sister promotion, when the pair started training together. By the time Hendricks notched a couple of wins in the UFC, he left Xtreme Couture behind and started training at another gym in town.
He left Las Vegas altogether two years ago to move to Dallas, which was closer to home for the 29-year-old.
Hendricks briefly allowed Kampmann to store furniture at his vacant Las Vegas house after he moved, but they eventually lost touch.
“I’ve seen him at some events, and we’re cool,” Kampmann said. “We’re friendly, but we don’t talk. We don’t stay in contact.”
Both have marveled, however, at each other’s careers. Hendricks noticed Kampmann’s evolution in recent wins over wrestlers such as Jake Ellenberger and Rick Story.
Kampmann said Hendricks’ movement on the feet against fighters such as Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch was a major change from when they started working together.
“He was very stiff and very raw,” Kampmann said. “One thing I worked on with him was getting a little more relaxed and smooth.”
Hendricks admitted that it took awhile for him to get as comfortable in the octagon as he was on a wrestling mat, but he’s reached that point with a recent four-fight win streak.
“I didn’t have that much confidence in myself,” Hendricks said. “Now I believe that I am where I am at and I should be fighting in the UFC and should be fighting for the title. I’ve got one more chance to say, ‘Yes, I do deserve that title shot.’”
He must a beat a man who knows his style and flaws much better than the rest of his opponents to get there. Of course, Hendricks could say the same thing in his favor.
Getting a bout of this importance is a testament to how valuable their time training together turned out. Neither Hendricks nor Kampmann ever saw this happening, but they don’t mind either.
“I wasn’t ever concerned about it,” Kampmann said. “It didn’t come to us. I still think even knowing we would fight later on, it would be beneficial for us to train together.”