On Saturday at UFC 162, Tim Kennedy makes his UFC debut after 12 years as a professional MMA fighter, including three in the now-defunct Strikeforce organization, where he once vied for the promotion’s middleweight belt.
It’s long overdue, and yet Kennedy looks at the booking as bittersweet. And no, it’s got nothing to do with his fight purse.
Although he’s fighting Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Roger Gracie (6-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) on the pay-per-view card’s swing bout, the always-outspoken Kennedy (15-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) said he’d much rather be paired against a UFC veteran. Fighting in Strikeforce, he constantly was being compared to the middleweights in the industry-leader and asked about whether he measured up to the UFC roster. Ever since the California-based promotion was shuttered, he’s been a cheerleader for Strikeforce fighters as they transition into the octagon.
“Now, I’ll just be cheering for myself,” the Special Forces veteran told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I’ll be like, ‘Great overhand right, Tim!’ ‘Good takedown!’ ‘Oh-oh, watch out for his guard. Don’t get swept.’”
Since pretty much every interview he’s given in the buildup to the fight, which takes place at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena, has been centered around Gracie’s ground skills, it’s best to get all the easy topics out of the way.
Yes, Kennedy respects Gracie’s jiu-jitsu.
No, he’s not scared to go to the ground with him.
His weight cut is going well, and so is training. Oh yes, is he healthy.
No, he will not reveal his game plan.
Yes, there are a bunch of guys in his weight division whom he’s looking forward to, but really, he’s first focusing on this upcoming fight.
If you’ve talked to the 33-year-old fighter for any length of time, you know that any interview with him is never a one topic affair. So here are the other things going on in his life as he prepares to take on Gracie.
- As a Special Forces soldier, you’re assigned a specialty for your training. Kennedy’s was weapons, so he now builds guns. Recently, he put together a special Glock handgun with a compensator (to reduce recoil) and a sniper rifle (oh yeah, he is also a trained sniper).
- When not training for a fight, Kennedy drives around his home state of Texas for shooting competitions, where the new guns will go to use. There are several different types of competitions, including one utilizing a .45 pistol, 12-gauge shotgun and rifle called “heavy metal” or “zombie” in which only head shots count. As a lifetime lover of zombies, he’s pretty jazzed by these.
- When he’s not blowing off the heads of mannequins, Kennedy is still a slave to the kitchen. After he accepted a fight with Gracie, he turned down offers to appear on two popular cooking shows, “Top Chef” and “Grill Masters.”
- Greg Jackson will be in his corner for the fight, and he’ll probably yell louder than any of his other corner men.
- In the six months since Strikeforce’s demise, Kennedy gives his former stablemates a “B” grade on their mid-year report card.
“We are exceeding expectations in many lines,” he said. “Our win-loss record is pretty even, but of that even standing, we’ve been underdogs in almost every single fight. With that said, we have lost some marquee fights, like Luke (Rockhold) and Vitor (Belfort) for instance, that were a major setback in the theme of Strikeforce really putting an exclamation mark on, ‘Go screw yourselves, we’re as good as everybody here and always have been.’ We are staying strong.”
- When asked whom he’d like to fight in his debut, Kennedy asked for Chris Leben. Instead, Leben wound up fighting Kennedy’s teammate, Andrew Craig.
- Speaking of middleweights, Kennedy has strong feelings about testosterone-replacement therapy. Asked about Belfort’s use of the hormone, Kennedy made it clear which side of the ethical fence he stands on.
“Listen, I am 33 years old,” he said. “I have been jumping out of planes, shot at, exploded, blown up for 10 years. I’ve been punched in the head for 15 years. If anybody’s going to have an excuse to use testosterone, it would be me. I do not need testosterone. My level of testosterone is like twice that of an average dude. So guess what I haven’t done? Steroids in the past. Oh man, there it is.
“It is complete horses–t that these guys are using testosterone. It’s cheating. Chael Sonnen, I tip my hat to him because he was honest enough to say he’s taking it because it’s enhancing his performance, and that’s exactly what it does. I would love to have the testosterone that’s twice that of an 18-year-old, and I can do five workouts a day and come home and hop on top of my wife, as Brock Lesnar says, but I’m a martial artist, and I don’t want to cheat. So I’m going to go out there and knock people out and say, ‘Guess what: I did it because I train hard and I’m natural.’”
- If Belfort, or anyone on TRT, would like a fight, Kennedy has this to say: “Meet me in California, guys.”
Now, back to Saturday and the face-punching ahead. How will he know when he’s figured out Gracie?
“When I see him try to shoot a single-leg on John McCarthy, I think I’ll be like, ‘OK, I think I won this one,’” Kennedy said.
For more on UFC 162, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.