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My Favorite Fights: Carlos Condit breaks down the five nights that most shaped his career

bloody Carlos Condit Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Carlos Condit is the one of the last of a dying breed.

After nearly 20 years in the fight game, with stops in King of the Cage, Pancrase, Rumble on the Rock, WEC, and the UFC, and a career that reads like an almanac of MMA history, there are few welterweights active today whose résumé matches the sheer volume and breadth of Condit’s. To put his journey into perspective, Tobey Maguire’s first “Spider-Man” film was the No. 1 movie in the country the same year Condit first donned his four-ounce gloves as a lanky Albuquerque teen in 2002. In other words, he’s been at this for a long time.

“I am acutely aware that my career is probably in its twilight,” Condit told MMA Fighting. “So every time I get to come out here with my coaches, who are really good friends of mine, and get the opportunity to get in there and fight, which has always been my dream, I know that I absolutely cherish it.”

At age 37, it’s anyone’s best guess how much time Condit has left to compete. So ahead of his UFC 264 tilt against Max Griffin, we asked the former UFC interim welterweight champion to reflect back: After 19 years across 14 promotions and 45 fights, which nights stand out the most to “The Natural Born Killer”? If he could only single out the five bouts that shaped his Hall of Fame career the most, which performances would Condit pick?

Let’s find out.

Editor’s Note: All quotes edited for clarity and concision.

1. Brad Gumm

The Setup: Ring of Fire 11 on Jan. 10, 2004 in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Background: The first true test of Condit’s career — and it nearly didn’t even happen.

Condit was just a 5-0 prospect with less than two years of MMA experience when he landed his first appearance in Colorado’s erstwhile Ring of Fire promotion. The man who welcomed him to Castle Rock may not be a familiar name for fans of today’s era, but Gumm was an imposing force in the primordial days of the sport. He was a few years removed from a two-fight stint in the UFC and owned a notable win over future “The Ultimate Fighter 2” winner Joe Stevenson. What’s more, he’d lost only one of his previous 11 bouts — a rematch against Stevenson in 2001 — and rode a five-fight unbeaten streak heading into his matchup against the unknown teenager who styled himself as “The Natural Born Killer.”

Yet if Condit didn’t have his work cut out for him enough, the kid from Albuquerque made life harder for himself with the way he handled the bout’s lead-up…

Result: Condit def. Gumm via TKO (punches) at 1:11 of Round One.

In His Own Words: “I think I was 18 or 19 years old and it was a big step up in competition at the time. He was a guy who had been in the UFC and he had some notoriety. Like, this is old-school UFC, dark ages UFC. I think I wanted to pull out of that fight at one point. I didn’t know that I had the fight coming up and I was out of the country partying in Costa Rica. And I got off the plane and I got a call from my coach, like, ‘Hey, we booked you this fight and it’s in like two weeks.’ I was like, oh…sh*t.

“I think about a week later or several days later, I was still partying and I called my coach, like, ‘Hey...I don’t know if I can do this fight.’ He just straight up was like, ‘Well, it probably wouldn’t be a good look to back out right now.’ And so I ended up doing it — probably knowing that had it gone past, you know, three or four minutes, I probably would have died because I was so out of shape. But man, I got out there and got it done.”

(There doesn’t appear to be video of this bout, so hey, here’s some Brad Gumm highlights.)

2. Renato Verissimo

The Setup: Rumble on the Rock 8 on Jan. 20, 2006 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Background: Few chapters in MMA history have aged better than the now-legendary welterweight tournament thrown by Hawaii’s Rumble on the Rock promotion.

With an eight-man bracket that counted at least six men who either held or challenged for UFC titles in their careers — Anderson Silva, Jake Shields, Yushin Okami, Dave Menne, Frank Trigg, and Condit — the tournament is remembered as one of the most star-studded regional events of its time. But Condit? He was an afterthought.

Just three months earlier, he’d lost to Satoru Kitaoka via first-round heel hook at a Pancrase show in Japan, and his résumé paled in comparison to virtually everyone’s else in the bracket. Verissimo was the obvious A-side to their tilt — a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and coach of B.J. Penn who’d faced the likes of Matt Hughes and beaten the mighty Carlos Newton during a three-fight UFC run. Yet the young underdog was not deterred.

Result: Condit def. Verissimo via TKO (knees and punches) at :17 of Round One.

In His Own Words: “Again I was kind of an unknown, and I think he had just fought Matt Hughes for the title. He’d beaten Carlos Newton. He was ranked like No. 5 or 6 in the world at the time and I was totally an unknown. And just getting out there … I had watched tape on him. He came out and threw an overhand and then he shot every time. I knew it. So I kind of parried his overhand and threw a knee as he dropped and caught him with the knee — [Condit laughs] — and then just finished him out with strikes.

“Obviously I had a good performance, I knocked him out less than 20 seconds, so that one put my name on the map. But especially when I was younger in my career, I always surprised myself. Like, I’m a guy that I have plenty of — I don’t know if it’s self doubt, but I am very, very realistic and conscious of the skills and the abilities of the people that I compete against. So sometimes that can make you question yourself. And so as a young up-and-coming fighter, I surprised myself a lot. I think I outperformed my actual abilities a lot by just rising to the occasion, and that’s kind of what I think I thrived on for a long time.”

3. Brock Larson

The Setup: WEC 29 on Aug. 5, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Background: Despite winning 20 of his first 24 fights by stoppage, Condit was still regarded as a somewhat surprising champion when he captured the WEC welterweight title with a submission of John Alessio in 2007. His title reign in the iconic blue cage was expected to be a short one, in large part because of the man at the head of the line waiting to face him.

A tough-as-nails wrestler and UFC veteran who’d racked up a towering 24-1 record, Larson was supposed to be a shoo-in to claim the WEC welterweight belt. His first two fights with the blue gloves both ended in first-round stoppages in his favor, capped off by a 27-second drubbing of Kevin Knabjian that felt like an ominous sign of things to come. But Condit? Let’s just say the Albuquerque kid still had a few surprises left in him.

Result: Condit def. Larson via submission (armbar) at 2:21 of Round One.

In His Own Words: “My first title defense in WEC, and this one was [one of my favorites] kind of for a similar reason. Like, I had won the belt in WEC and Brock Larson was just this beast of a person. And there was quite a bit of talk that he was just going to crush me, that I had no business even fighting this guy.

“I don’t really remember [the details], but, I mean, I obviously took care of it. But it could have gone very different. That dude was a beast, and there was one point in that fight when I felt his strength — and I was like, ‘Oh man, this might not be my night.’ And, well, then like seconds later my training kicked in — and I kicked over for an armbar and got it done.”

4. Georges St-Pierre

The Setup: UFC 154 on Nov. 17, 2012 in Montreal, Canada.

Background: Without question, Condit’s five-year leap from WEC 29 to UFC 154 marked the finest chapter of a career that has spanned nearly two decades.

Condit’s transition from WEC champion to UFC contender in 2009 was nearly seamless. Following his third straight WEC title defense, “The Natural Born Killer” hit the ground running in the octagon, rattling off five wins in his first six bouts, culminating in a victory over Nick Diaz at UFC 143 that earned Condit interim welterweight gold.

His prize? A title unification bout at UFC 154 against the greatest welterweight of all-time, Canada’s own St-Pierre, in an event staged straight in the heart of enemy territory.

Though Condit ultimately failed against St-Pierre, same as countless men before and after him did, his third-round head kick on the future two-division champion marked the closest St-Pierre came to being knocked out in the final decade of his Hall of Fame career.

Result: St-Pierre def. Condit via unanimous decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-45)

In His Own Words: “The GSP fight, obviously fighting George St. Pierre, who’s one of the greatest of all-time, in Montreal [was big]. And, you know, I didn’t get the victory, but I was real, real close. I have a lot of things that I wish I would have done different in that fight. But I’m proud of the way that it played out. I think we put on a hell of a show, and that one is a classic.

“I think Georges’ next fight was against against Nick Diaz (at UFC 158) and we talked actually a little bit at that fight, but I haven’t talked to him since.”

5. Martin Kampmann 2

The Setup: UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Kampmann 2 on Aug. 28, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Background: Nine months after his disappointment against St-Pierre, Condit’s back had been thrust firmly against the wall.

Staring down the barrel of the first two-fight losing streak of his big-show run, “The Natural Born Killer” found himself locked into a rematch against Kampmann with his life as a UFC title contender on the line. The Danish striker had bested Condit four years prior, eking out a contentious split decision to spoil Condit’s UFC debut. Yet the American would soon exact his vengeance, rebounding from his two-fight slump with a vintage performance that still stands as one of the finest, most complete outings of his octagon career.

Result: Condit def. Kampmann via TKO (punches and knees) at :54 of Round Four.

In His Own Words: “My second fight against Martin Kampmann, I was coming off the two losses. I’d lost to Georges and then I’d lost to Johny Hendricks. And I think that one is more [special for me], personally, because of the amount of work that I’d put into that fight to make sure that I won the rematch. The first one was so close. I mean, it was a split decision.

“So just to go out there and take care of it, to not leave it to the judges and get it taken care of and get back up after the losses, I actually think it was one of my best performances.”

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