(Photo courtesy of Tim’s official Facebook fan page.)
by CagePotato contributor Matt Kaplan
Tim Kennedy is a family man, a rising MMA star, and a war hero. He is guided by a strong moral compass and upholds what he thinks is right. As a result, he will no doubt rub some of you the wrong way.
He is unapologetically pro-military. He thinks that too many high-profile fighters are irresponsible, and that your favorite scary MMA t-shirt is lame. His shorts will never promote alcohol, tobacco, gambling, or pornography, and he snickers at nicknames that have “Killer” or “Assassin” in them. He takes seriously his role as a professional athlete and would like to see more of the MMA community follow his lead.
For some of you, Tim’s patriotism and wholesome principles are breaths of fresh air. Others, however, might be wondering if his high horse actually has a name. Either way, there’s no denying that Tim is one of MMA’s most quintessential warriors (for real).
A U.S. Army Staff Sergeant with the 19th Special Forces Group, Tim is a trained sniper and combatives instructor whose combat heroism has earned him the Bronze Star. Now, with an already impressive military record to his credit, Tim is preparing for just his second fight as a full-time fighter and has already lined up in his crosshairs the Strikeforce middleweight championship belt.
On June 16 at Strikeforce: Los Angeles, Tim Kennedy (11-2) will climb into the cage with rugged South African veteran Trevor Prangley (22-5-1), his biggest test to date. Tim has yet to fight someone with the combination of size, strength, toughness, and experience that is Prangley, so he’s keeping to a basic plan of attack: dominate the fight in every possible way. Why get fancy, right?
CAGEPOTATO.COM: Your last fight was against Zak Cummings back in September. Why the long lay-off?
TIM KENNEDY: I don’t know. I think Strikeforce and EA Sports were kinda shelving some of the guys they wanted to fight on the release of their video game, but I’ve been wanting to fight. So when they gave me the name Prangley a month ago, I was ecstatic. I’ve been training, I’ve been healthy, and I’ve been looking for a fight.
The first thought you had when you heard that Prangley was your next fight was…
“That guy is tough.” Whatever respective weight class you fight at, you kind of know everyone one class above and below, and that guy has just been a stud his whole entire career. But, on the flip side, I was super excited because he’s so tough, and I think he’s underrated; you know, not a lot of people know about him and for how long he’s been good.
As far as you see it, what makes each of you a bad match-up for the other?
Well, he’s a bad match-up for anybody. You look at a striker, and he can put a whole world of hurt on the guy on his back. Then you look at a wrestler, and his stand-up is good enough where it’s so hard for anybody to get him to the ground because he’s such a good wrestler. You look at a jiu-jitsu guy, and there’s no way a jiu-jitsu guy is ever going to get him there. So you have to know how to strike or have some pretty amazing takedowns. I’m a bad match-up for him because of my explosiveness and [I allow for a] small margin of error. All the places he’s not good, I can get him there and exploit him.
There have been talks of Strikeforce putting together a few fights that could reshape the middleweight hierarchy if Jake Shields signs elsewhere. Your name – along with “Jacare” Souza, Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawler, Luke Rockhold, Jason “Mayhem” Miller – has been mentioned. Have you heard anything about this from Strikeforce?
No. I’ve heard rumors and speculation, but nothing definite.
Regardless, you’re in a pretty tough division. I know you’re not looking past Prangley, but what other match-ups out there do you like at 185?
Scott Smith and Jason Miller are both exciting fights for selfish reasons because I want to fix some losses I’ve had to them in the past. I look at Robbie Lawler, Joey Villasenor, the heavy-handed guys that have been around a bit, that have fought in the UFC and who have the experience. Cung Le, Jacare. Really the list is endless in that weight class.
Do you think Jake Shields will stay with Strikeforce?
I hope he comes back because, as a guy who wants that belt, I want to fight the real champion. I don’t want to do a tournament. I want to fight the guy who has the belt, so I want him to stay for selfish reasons. But he’s got to do what’s best for him. There are guys at 170 and 185 he’s wanted to fight for a long time. I’ve known Jake for 12 years, and he deserves to fight the best.
He was actually the guy who brought me to The Pit. I was working out at a Japanese Jiu-Jitsu gym, and I thought I was the man. And then in walks Beau Taylor and Jake Shields, and they just mopped the mat with me. They were like 15 or 16 years old when they walked in, and I was like, “Who the hell are these guys?” So I followed them to San Luis Obispo.
You’ve obviously been around the sport for a while now and you’ve been critical of it at times, referring to it on one occasion as “a dog and pony show.” Explain what you mean by that.
Mixed martial arts is not a misnomer; that’s exactly what it the sport is. Martial arts is about honor, integrity, focus. It’s not to be exploited or capitalized like some pulp fiction form of entertainment. It’s supposed to be professional athletes who are disciplined, motivated, focused to compete to see who’s the best fighter. It’s not, let’s put on some crazy, gothic t-shirt and a “Born Killer” hat and go out there and make fools of ourselves, and after go to a casino and then to the ER and start another fight. One of my big gripes is how poorly some of these fighters behave. I want to see the beauty of the sport, the discipline and the focus prevail.
So you didn’t like the brawl after Shields beat Henderson, I assume.
I didn’t like it. We’re professional athletes and we have to behave as such. I receive e-mails daily from the military or people from the MMA community who respect how I conduct myself. I always try to do the right thing and conduct myself like an honorable fighter, and I think as a professional athlete, you have a responsibility to always do that. I understand how high emotions get after the fight. Jake Shields just beat Dan Henderson to defend his belt! I’d be pretty excited too, but Jason was just being Jason. I was disappointed that it went that way.
You often hear fighters refer to themselves as “warriors” and say, “It’s going to be a war,” when they talk about an upcoming fight. Sometimes — very rarely — you hear one fighter talk about killing an opponent. Do you ever have a hard time shrugging off that kind of thing as just pre-fight hype?
I think it’s cute. I want to squeeze a guy’s cheeks when I hear that. You have no idea how horrible war is, or killing. I chuckle inside. I don’t have a hard time shrugging it off; I just think it’s funny.
Well, Prangley’s never been much of a trash talker, so I don’t think you’ll be squeezing those cheeks. In a perfect world, how do you beat Prangley next week?
Decisively. I don’t want it to be a flash knockout. I want it to be, like, “Wow, Tim just owned one of the toughest guys in the division, Trevor Prangley. He outwrestled him, outboxed him, outkickboxed him; he scored in every possible way there is to score in every possible position.” And then I finally finish him.
Last thing: What’s your ultimate MMA goal?
I know everybody knows that for the past few years I’ve been a soldier in the U.S. Army. I fight and I want to get the belt and be in the position to speak into people’s lives so I can demonstrate how amazing the military can be and how fulfilling a career it can be. I was a bad kid, and ten years later, I’m happily married, have a wonderful career, and am being supported by the U.S. Army. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.
I think that’s it, Staff Sergeant. Thank you.
Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. Hey, check out Soldiers’ Angels and the Green Beret Foundation, the two greatest organizations ever. And of course RangerUp.com, Gerber Knives, and Alchemist. They’re about to be huge.