Ryan Greene/Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Oct. 22, 2010 | 2:30 a.m.
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Though Martin Kampmann won't come out and say it's how he feels as his UFC 121 co-main event battle looms, no one would blame the welterweight vet for feeling slighted.
At Saturday night's tussle, he'll square off against Jake Shields, who makes his long-awaited UFC debut armed with a 14-fight win streak, a unanimous top-10 pound-for-pound ranking and a whole mess of hype behind him.
UFC President Dana White upped the ante some during Wednesday's press conference in downtown Los Angeles, making it seem all but certain that if Shields can dispatch of Kampmann, he'll get a sudden title shot against the winner of the upcoming bout between Josh Koscheck and Georges St. Pierre.
And if Kampmann wins?
Well, according to White, he'll certainly "be in the mix."
"It pisses him off," Shields said during Thursday's open workouts at the UFC gym in Rosemead, Calif. "It's how I felt against Dan Henderson (in Henderson's April Strikeforce debut). Everyone was counting me out. I'm the guy coming in; it's my first fight in the UFC, and I'm getting all of the attention. I'm sure he's pissed off.
"I feel I deserve the attention. I have a better record than him. I've fought more top-level fighters but, still, he's got to feel disrespected being the organization he's fought in for 10-plus fights and I'm getting more hyped."
Shields openly admits that that angle could work in favor of either fighter. And while a quick shot at a UFC belt is dangling from the branch for Shields to grab, there is plenty on the table for Kampmann, too.
Kampmann missed an opportunity to advance to a top contender bout against Koscheck when he was TKO'd by Paul Daley back at UFC 103. But even though Shields has yet to fight in the UFC, he's widely considered the world's top welterweight behind St. Pierre. A win might not get Kampmann an immediate title shot, but it could certainly put him on the doorstep.
Instead of saying he feels slighted or disrespected by the notion that Shields will get the next crack at St. Pierre or Koscheck with a win, he seems most bothered by the idea that this fight was set up simply as a showcase to introduce his opponent to the masses on a UFC stage en route to potential super-stardom.
"I think they definitely picked the wrong opponent for that, if that's the plan," Kampmann said. "They should have picked somebody else, because I'm nobody's showcase; I'm nobody's stepping stone. I'm here to achieve my goals.
"I know him from his fights in Strikeforce, and obviously he's got a big name there. He's coming in from the outside, but I feel I've paid my dues with the UFC. I've got 10 fights in here and this is his first fight. He's not just going to come in here and claim a name off of me."
Despite the massive buzz behind Shields, a win will be far from a gimme.
While his ground game is among the best in the world, Kampmann is well-rounded enough to hold his own, and his 17-3 professional record is beyond respectable.
The truth is, though, that Shields may have more to potentially gain from a win.
Not only is he a legitimate threat to win belts in both the welterweight and middleweight divisions in the UFC, but he could also become one of the organization's most marketable stars.
He has the clean-cut look that is camera-friendly and an All-American flair that will be quite appealing to fans. Shields took part in the open workouts wearing trunks featuring the stars and stripes, topped by a T-shirt designed around an image of Clint Eastwood and the words "One more round."
To reach that level of being one of the true faces of the UFC and a marketing cash cow, though, Shields knows he has to win.
He said it doesn't matter to him whether his fights come in the 170- or 185-pound class, as long as he's being challenged and can work his way toward a No. 1 pound-for-pound ranking.
Shields added that coming to the UFC was always considered a "done deal" in his mind, as various reasons kept several previous contract offers from being completed. After he defeated former UFC star Dan Henderson via unanimous decision, White called to congratulate him the next day, and he figured that was as high as he could go outside of the UFC.
Now he has the stage to go even higher.
"I think yesterday at the press conference, I started to feel the reality of it," Shields said. "Being there, all the media, being between Brock (Lesnar) and Tito (Ortiz), feeling the reality of being in the UFC.
"It's been a long time coming. There's negatives that come along with the fame, but I've worked hard and I think it's my time."