by Tom Hamliin – MMAWeekly.com
In his UFC debut with Martin Kampmann at UFC Fight Night 18, Carlos Condit felt perception was reality.

Wednesday’s fight in Tennessee brought the former WEC welterweight champion his first setback in almost three years of fighting, and with it the reminder that judges’ decisions put fighters in a vulnerable place.

While Condit scored often on his feet, keeping Kampmann at distance with his lanky limbs, once the action hit the mat, he was more often than not on the bottom.

He had fought in front of big crowds before, namely in his hometown of Albuquerque, N.M., defending his WEC belt, but right off he could tell the difference between the Zuffa-owned organizations. He says he wasn’t paralyzed by the much-publicized “UFC jitters,” but that it required him to focus more intensely on the task at hand.

“The WEC trained me very, very well, but the UFC is a bigger organization, bigger perks, more press, more eyes on me which is pretty much the main thing that I noticed.”

And Kampmann never eased back. From start to finish, he moved forward and made Condit counter-fight.

Though many fans felt the aggressive guard and stand-up work of “The Natural Born Killer” were enough, two judges put him a point behind, 28-29.

“It was a very, very close fight,” Condit acknowledged afterwards. “I left it in the judges’ hands, which is always risky. I felt like I did more damage, but I know as well as anybody that knows the sport, the guy that’s on top usually gets the nod from the judges. Martin was able to stay on top for longer and he got the nod, and hats off to him.”

For the first time since his entry into the WEC, Condit was on the defense for submissions instead of doling them out from his back. Kampmann carried a slight size advantage going into the fight, and he used the clinch to take dominant position. Instead of throwing up his patented triangles and armbars, Condit fought off guillotines. One nearly finished him.

“The first one that he had I wasn’t in very much trouble, but the one that he had, I believe it was at the end of the first round, he had it deep and I heard the tap for 10 seconds, so I just held my breath for 10 seconds,” said. “Had there been 30 seconds left in the fight, it might have been a different story.”

If there were a lesson to his first UFC experience, it would be not to stay in his comfort zone.

“As far as what I would have liked to have done a little bit different, push the pace more,” said Condit. “Every time we got into standing exchanges we ended up in the clinch, which I think favored him. It kind of slowed down the pace of the fight. Next time I would have fought a little bit harder to stay on top. I’m comfortable in my guard, but that didn’t win me the fight.

“In hindsight I probably should have broken contact and used my strikes a little bit more than the clinching.”

You won’t hear Condit on a fashionable tirade about judging in MMA. He lost, and he’ll use the experience to go back to the drawing board.

But if Kampmann’s game for a rematch, he won’t say no.

“I’m not going to come out here and be like, ‘oh, I want a rematch’ right off the bat because that’s a little bit disrespectful I think,” he said. “The judges saw it his way and I’ll leave it at that. But of course I’d like to rematch him. You know? But he got the nod tonight.”