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Carlos Condit: Time to Fight the Best in the World in the UFC

Carlos Condit went from the champion to just one of the contenders, and he couldn't be happier about it.

As the World Extreme Cagefighting welterweight champion, Condit was the big fish in a small pond of welterweights. But Condit wanted a challenge, so when he was asked to set his WEC belt aside and fight the best welterweights in the world in the UFC, he jumped at the opportunity.

I interviewed Condit about his UFC debut against Martin Kampmann (on April 1 on Spike), as well as his personal relationship with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, his visit to Afghanistan and his admiration for UFC welterweight champion Georges St Pierre. The full interview is below.

Michael David Smith: How did you find out the WEC was getting rid of welterweights and that you'd be going to the UFC?
Carlos Condit: I was approached by (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva and they offered me the fight with Kampmann in the UFC. I was excited and I accepted, and pretty soon after that I found out they were just eliminating the welterweight division.

Did you feel like leaving the WEC for the UFC was sort of like getting called up?
I felt like it was a natural progression for my career. I felt like it was my time to fight the other top 10 welterweights in the world, and they're in the UFC.

Last year, when you were WEC champion, you had a fight in New Mexico and Governor Bill Richardson came out to watch it. How did that come about?
My dad is Bill Richardson's chief of staff. Bill Richardson is a big fight fan. He was a big boxing fan for many years and he got into MMA because of the connection with my dad. He's been very supportive.

There are still some politicians who have a problem with MMA. It must be good to know a governor who doesn't feel that way.
It definitely doesn't hurt, and it shows that MMA is a good sport, it's regulated, and it has come out of the back rooms and into the spotlight as a legitimate sport.

I saw a video on YouTube of you in Afghanistan, doing a little bit of sparring with some of the troops stationed there. What was that experience like?
It was a phenomenal experience getting to go out and visit the troops. Those guys sacrifice everything on a daily basis. They're away from their families, they go through a lot of hardships and some of them make the ultimate sacrifice. So it was a really fulfilling experience to go out there and visit, and to do some MMA demonstrations.

Are you interested in getting more involved in politics and public service?
Yes. I'm not sure to what extent but I'm definitely interested in politics and in what goes on in our country and our world and in my community.

Are you a Democrat like your dad?
Yes, I'm a registered Democrat.

Do you actively support any candidates for office?
Somewhat. I would like to do more, but I'm so busy with training and with traveling that I don't get involved as much as I would like. One day when I have more time I would definitely like to get more involved.

Back to your fighting career: You were the top welterweight in the WEC, but now that you're in the UFC the field is a lot more crowded. Where do you think you rank, and what do you think you need to do to get a shot at the UFC welterweight title?
To get a title shot I feel like I need to put together maybe three impressive wins. I feel like I'm definitely in the top five or six welterweights, but that remains to be seen, and I think fighting Martin Kampmann gives me a good chance to show what I can do.

Your last four fights were scheduled for five rounds, while this one is scheduled for three rounds. Does that change your training at all?

No. I've still been training as if I was fighting a five-round fight. Hopefully I'll be able to push the pace even harder through three rounds.

How is your training going?
This has been a phenomenal training camp. It's been my longest training camp, and I've had some really great partners helping me train for this fight at AZ Combat. I feel really prepared.

Who are your main training partners?
Well it's been great because we've got four guys fighting on this card coming up on April 1: Ryan Bader, Steve Steinbeiss and Aaron Simpson. They're all very talented guys and I think we're going to have a great showing.

Is it helpful that the four of you all train at the same place and will all fight on the same day, as far as developing a training schedule that will have you all peaking at the same time?
Yeah, it's good for peace of mind. You know other guys are going through the same thing and you don't feel like the pressure is all on you, and you give each other support.

Is there anything specific you're working on in this camp? Based on either what you think you need to improve or based on what kind of opponent you have in Martin Kampmann?
No. Martin Kampmann is very well rounded, so I have to stay sharp in all aspects of my game. I imagine he's thinking the same thing.

How much tape of Martin Kampmann have you watched?
I've watched a fair amount. I've seen several of his UFC fights and some of his old fights from Europe. He's very tough. He's a solid fighter.

When you watch tape, what are you looking for?
I'm looking for openings, for what he does in certain situations. When is he aggressive? When does he pull back? I also look to see between rounds, how fatigued he gets. Stuff like that.

What kind of fight are you expecting?
I expect it to be very fast paced and all over the place. We both have similar strengths as far as our skill sets and I expect a very exciting fight.

What would you like to accomplish this year, aside from beating Kampmann?
I'd like to continue my winning streak, put together maybe two or three big wins and continue my reputation for finishing opponents.

Which fighters do you most admire?
I admire most fighters in general. I just have respect for guys who have the guts to get in there and lay it all on the line. But in particular, the king of my division, Georges St. Pierre, is a great example. He's a phenomenal athlete, he's a great fighter and he's also very humble, which is something I admire.