It was back in 2006 when the MMA world took its first glance at Carlos Condit. I think we all knew he was one bad dude.
Well, actually no. I think most of us wrote him off at first glance. He was a fresh-faced 22 year old kid from New Mexico (which was anything but an MMA hotbed back then) who boasted a decent record against so-so opposition, highlighted by Ross Ebanez — but simply put, Condit seemed in over his head that night. His opponent, after all, was a true contender, and Condit was more of an interesting prospect. Recently I heard from a guy who was at the Blaisdell Arena that night, who described watching Condit throwing the same punching combination over and again in his warmups, thinking, this poor kid doesn’t stand a chance.
Condit’s opponent that night was Renato “Charuto” Verissimo, a forgotten contender of the sport, in the first round of Rumble on the Rock’s 175 pound tournament (an event which also featured the first Anderson Silva vs Yushin Okami bout).
Maybe you could say Verissimo was to MMA of the mid 2000′s what his fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Allan Goes was in the late ’90s: a guy who took the best of the day to the limit, but somehow was never quite recognized as a champion. Following a dominating win over former UFC welterweight champion Carlos Newton with a controversial decision loss to Matt Hughes in 2004, Verissimo entered the Rumble on the Rock cage in his adopted home of Hawaii that night as a heavy favorite.
Then, seventeen seconds after that first glance at him, or rather, one nasty knockout later — well, then we knew Carlos Condit was one bad dude.
It was a knee strike to the chin which dropped Verissimo to the mat as he prepared to shoot a takedown. His lengthy frame (his nickname “Charuto” is Portuguese for “cigar”) folded to the mat, and Condit pounced with typical aggressiveness, scoring with right hands and more knees until referee Larry Landless called a halt to the bout.
Carlos Condit was revealed as a guy with a ferocious attack, backed up with some solid technical acumen. In his post-fight interview with the late Ryan Bennett, Condit explained that he set that knee up because he could anticipate the shot, with Verissimo “getting a little lazy in his standup” in his previous bouts.
Seven years later, Carlos Condit has only gotten better. He won and defended the WEC welterweight belt, and defeated Nick Diaz for the Interim Welterweight Championship last year. He has endured some criticism for a slower pace recently in his bouts, and he’s dropped some decisions that perhaps just a touch more activity could have won — but he’s shown in performances like his T/KO of Rory MacDonald that he can still turn it on.
In fact, Condit received “Fight of the Night” honors in his last two bouts. Unfortunately, he lost both — against Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks, respectively. St-Pierre and Hendricks will fight for the UFC title next month, while Condit will battle to avenge one of his only other losses, against Martin Kampmann, next Wednesday.
Some would say, well, Condit got his chance.
Yes, sometimes I still think we’re tempted to look past him. But then I think back to that night in Hawaii, and I remember the aggressive young talent who may still not have peaked today. Then, I think Carlos Condit will turn that corner that Verissimo (and Goes) didn’t, and will indeed hoist UFC gold one day.
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