by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
Carlos Condit sees only one man on the horizon: Brock Larson.
Condit defeated the Minnesota Mixed Martial Arts Academy standout in convincing fashion at WEC 29, another blip on his submission radar. Larson didn’t see an armbar coming off a scramble, and it was game over.
But as the top dog of a thin division, the WEC welterweight champion has to shrug his shoulders. He doesn’t have many choices, and the ones he has are not camera ready to face him.
“It’s not ideal, because I have everything to lose, and he has everything to gain,” Condit told MMAWeekly.com’s Sound Off. “The pool of contenders is a bit shallow. There’s not a whole lot of guys for me to fight.”
Condit has been inactive since August of 2008, when he triumphed over the tough Hiromitsu Miura in his first title defense to go past the third round. Rumored returns in December and January have not materialized, so he’s used the time off for a change of scenery.
In November, Condit traded one desert for another, moving from Albuquerque, N.M., to Tempe, Ariz. He had spent his entire fighting life in New Mexico, and had reached a plateau in his development. He was burnt out.
“To the point where I wasn’t motivated to train,” Condit explained. “I felt like I’d pretty much done everything there was to do. The only thing that really got me motivated out there was running in the mountains and spending time outside. Other than that, well, I’ve already done all the clubs. I’ve already sparred with everybody there is to spar with. I needed something new to do.”
Training at the city’s other big gym, Jackson’s MMA, wasn’t really on the table. Condit’s trainer, Tom Vaughn, had made a name for himself after earning a black belt with Greg Jackson, opening Fit NHB, the place Condit would call home. Though Condit would stop in to Jackson’s from time to time, he couldn’t see himself there, or in Albuquerque, for the rest of his career.
Through the WEC, Condit befriended Jamie Varner, the promotion’s lightweight champion, and the two talked about training together. Condit had friends in Tempe, where Varner’s gym, Arizona Combat Sports, was located, and he knew of the gym’s pedigree. They had a room of Division I wrestlers who liked all out wars in the gym. Like a lot of jiu-jitsu experts, Condit felt wrestling was his weak point. It didn’t take long for him to see the benefit of moving.
“Over there, they’ve got a bunch of really talented wrestlers; wrestlers who like to fight, who are becoming or are very good mixed martial artists,” he said.
In that way, the layoff has treated Condit well. He’s had the chance to plug holes in his game. The wrestling’s a work in progress.
“It’s not come as far as it needs to, but it’s been improving for sure,” he said.
For the most part, wrestling was the unanswered question of Condit’s fight with Larson. Most saw Larson’s mat expertise as the key to beating Condit’s jiu-jitsu. But he made a mistake early, and in the absence of sweat, Condit capitalized.
Should they fight again, Condit sees as much danger as he saw before.
“He’s a very tough guy, and just because I beat him before doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “I’m going to have to be on my toes. I’m very motivated to fight him, and I’m looking forward to a very tough training camp.”
Condit would also jump at a rematch with old foe Jake Shields, who defeated him in a Rumble on the Rock tournament in 2006.
“I’d definitely like to rematch Jake,” he says. “I would welcome that fight for sure.”
That said; nothing is set in stone for the return of the “Natural Born Killer.” Right now he’s helping Varner prepare for his upcoming fight with Donald Cerrone – a former training partner – at WEC 38.
“It is a bit awkward,” he comments. “I wouldn’t want to let the cat out of the bag and give Jamie all the secrets or anything, but on the other hand, I want Jamie to be ready for this fight. So it’s a bit of a fine line to walk.”
He expects to return to the WEC in March, where a fight with Larson seems inevitable if the promotion is not able to import a recognizable candidate.
“I’d like to fight more often, but I’m still going to be really sharp when I come back,” Condit said.