Tim Kennedy is a true American hero. A Special Forces sniper, Kennedy has put his life on the line for our nation, winning the prestigious Silver Star for his valiant service in Iraq. Kennedy is also one of the very best fighters in the world. He’s just had to push his fighting career to the side while he completed his military service. He’s still managed 10 professional wins, but it hasn’t been his focus – until now. Kennedy has a two year window to pursue fighting full time.
Heavy.com: For those who may not know, clear up your current military status for us. Are you still full time in the military, are you completely out, are you completely focusing on fighting? What is the situation?
Tim Kennedy: I am a full time fighter that is still full time military. I’m assigned to the 19thSpecial Forces group in Texas in a National Guard unit and my job is to teach other Special Forces soldiers how to shoot and how to fight. They are very accommodating and flexible with my work schedule so I can do regular full time fighter hours and do my teaching. Some of my responsibilitieshave to do with me being a fighter so some of the duties kind of bleed over into each other. But my assignment is the 19thSpecial Forces group in Texas and I’m pretty much a full time fighter and I love being a soldier.
Heavy.com: And with what you’re doing now are you likely to be deployed at all?
Tim Kennedy: Nope, they are giving me two years. I’ve been deployable for the past six and deployed a lot. Texas is being very flexible with me in that they’re giving me a stability timeframe because I just switched units and relocated. I will be moving to Dallas to train with Travis Lutter and Guy Mezger. Well, I’ll be living between Dallas and Ft. Worth and training with the both of them. So they’re kind of giving me two years to settle into my new job and to adjust to my new unit and the new area and fight full time.
Heavy.com: So after the two years is there a potential for you to be deployed again?
Tim Kennedy: Definitely. I, of course, would love to be.
Heavy.com: Since your role has changed dramatically from what you were previously doing with the military, what has been the biggest challenge for you so far in switching from a part-time fighter and full-time soldier to a full-time fighter and full-time soldier?
Tim Kennedy: The biggest challenge has been the fact that all of my friends and my old unit, they’re all deployed right now. They’re all either in Afghanistan or Iraq and I’m here. They’re emailing me every day and it’s pretty much torture. So I would say the hardest and worst part is just not being with them right now.
Heavy.com: Do you miss the camaraderie of your former military unit?
Tim Kennedy: You know, it’s still there. Like I said, they email me every day, you know, I’m talking to them on a satellite phone. But it’s kind of agonizing, it’s more of a torture than it is a pleasure right now. The camaraderie is still there but I miss it like nothing else. These are the greatest guys on the planet. Great fathers, great husbands and the best soldiers in the world. They’re Green Berets, special forces Army soldiers and there’s nobody better. Kind of being not part of that, not part of that community where I’m away from them and dealing with the emotional trauma of things that go well or very poorly in a given day is tough. But they know I’m doing the right thing and I know I’m doing the right thing. They’re supporting me and I’m supporting them the best that we can in our respective positions right now.
Heavy.com: On the flipside of that, I know you’ve talked for some time now about how much better you could be if you had enough time to devote to fighting full time. How do you feel now that you have the time to devote to a full time MMA career?
Tim Kennedy: It’s been unreal. I’m doing everything right. I have P.R. Cole from FuelTheFighter.com doing my nutrition, Justin Lakin doing my strength and conditioning and three or four jiujitsu black belts that I get to train with on an almost daily basis. I have all my standup sparring partners, I’m doing three workouts a day. It’s unreal. I’m still getting stronger. I’ve been training full time for five months now, two months for Nick Thompson and three months for this fight and I’m still getting stronger, I’m still getting faster, my weight’s better, I have less soft weight. Things are just starting to click. I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like in a year but having an opportunity and the time to do everything right is making a difference.
Heavy.com: So you feel like your potential is far from being reached?
Tim Kennedy: Yes. Both in skill in technique and physically. Having been a full time soldier for the past six years, deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places, the mixed martial arts game, certain aspects of it have evolved and I wasn’t part of that evolution. So I might be behind the curve on a lot of the stuff and I’m playing catch up. I think the learning curve is gonna be very steep and I’m getting up it fast, but truth be told, I’m behind it right now.
Heavy.com: What do you feel is the biggest evolution that you’ve kind of missed the boat on?
Tim Kennedy: I think the guys like Georges St. Pierre that are amazing athletes in the first place and have been able to train with the best in all of the different realms of mixed martial arts: boxing, kickboxing, jiujitsu, wrestling, and really take a certain skill set and perfect it. You can take guys like Anderson Silva and throw them in a professional boxing ring and he’s gonna do really, really well. Or a professional muay thai fight. Or you can send him to NAGA or Grappler’s Quest or Abu Dhabi and watch him crush people in jiujitsu. I know what I’m really good at and fortunately I’m able to use my experience to put that onto my opponents. Sure, there are still aspects of my game that need to be refined. You know, one of them has been my muay thai kickboxing.
I just spent some time up in Boston with Matt Phinney and Mark Della Grotte at Sityodtong just working on my finesse kickboxing. Working on elbows, knees, footwork, sweeps, you know, all that stuff that I’ve really been neglecting because I was just that powerhouse boxer, wrestler, Pit style kickboxer. I think I’m behind on some of the niche tricks of the trade that you’re able to integrate into an MMA fight.
Heavy.com: Switching gears a little bit I know that a lot of people were vying for your services when you were a free agent including the UFC. What made you choose Strikeforce over any other organization?
Tim Kennedy: Strikeforcewas very accommodating with the fact that I’m still going to be part of the military, being able to continue to wear the uniform. My fight’s on the 25th. The 26thand 27th I’m coming home, packing my bags, grabbing my uniform and flying to the Soldier of the Year competition to help the troops there. These are things that they’re very understanding of. They’re very flexible with recognizing that I still have responsibilities as a soldier to take care of those things.
It’s difficult. Imagine you being a promotion owner and you wanting me to fight for you. You would have a difficult time saying “Well, I actually don’t own you, I can’t tell you where to go because the military still owns you.” Certain promotion owners don’t want to give that away. As it is right now, Scott (Coker) is just being a very accommodating boss, very flexible, and very understanding of my obligations which are all over the place.
Heavy.com: Getting into the fight this weekend I know you were originally scheduled to face Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos but he got hurt. How have you had to change your preparation since they announced Zak Cummings as your opponent?
Tim Kennedy: They’re like the antithesis of each other. Zak Cummings is a wrestler from Missouri, white guy, southpaw, whereas Cyborg is a kickboxer from ChuteBoxe down in Brazil, not a very good wrestler, and has a traditional stance. In regards to, you know, techniques that we’re drilling and gameplans, we had to throw the old one out the window and start fresh with a new gameplan. It’s still fighting, it’s still MMA. It’s still kickboxing, wrestling, jiujitsu. It’s still the basics. The timeline didn’t change, my workouts didn’t change but just some of the stuff we’ve been focusing on has changed.
Heavy.com: In a recent interview with MMA Junkie Radio you referred to Cyborg as “not good.” What did you mean by that?
Tim Kennedy: First of all, he’s a very talented and exceptional fighter. Relative to Zak Cummings’ notoriety or exposure? If you were going to put them on a scale from skill level to publicity, Zak Cummings having nobody know about him and being a very dangerous fighter to Cyborg being a very dangerous fighter and also having a ton of publicity. It would be a better fight for me to fight an equally skilled athlete that has more publicity. For a fight career it’s better because more people see about the fight, read about the fight, know about the fights and see the results of the fight. Sponsorships are better when you’re fighting a guy like Cyborg who everybody knows about.
So in a cost analysis it’s not good to fight a Zak Cummings where it’s my fight to lose, whereas if I fight Cyborg we’re just going out there to put on an awesome show because we’re both pretty well known athletes. A win over Cummings is great and I just beat an undefeated 10-0 guy but who is Zak Cummings? You know, I know who he is and I know he’s dangerous but beating a guy like Cyborg is a lot easier to get recognition for.
Heavy.com: I read on your blog that you were feeling pretty hungry. How has the weight cut been?
Tim Kennedy: It sucked! I’m a miserable person. My poor wife is sitting right next to me and she’s just being quiet. Probably not just because I’m doing an interview right now but because I’m a crappy person. I just want food so bad! I’ll eat anything. You drop me off at a store and I could eat my way from the back of the store to the front of the store effortlessly. From Saturday night on I have every single meal planned, five meals a day, from Saturday all the way through Wednesday. All my friends are cooking their special dishes for breakfast or dinner or whatever. For six days I have it planned out. The weight cut sucked but I have never felt this healthy, this strong, or this fast. I’m still getting stronger and my weight is exactly where it needs to be. I’m within striking distance right now, everything is perfect weight wise. But it just sucks, I’m not happy.
Heavy.com: Has Strikeforceapproached you about potentially fighting for the title if you win?
Tim Kennedy: For me right now I’m just focusing on Zak Cummings. I know Jake Shields and Jason Miller are fighting. I’m really excited about that fight. I would really like to fight Jason Miller and I would be even more excited if he had the title. There’s some stuff we have to straighten out in the ring. I consider Jason a friend but I would love to fight him again. If he had the Strikeforce belt I would be even happier. I said today that there’snot very many things that would make me as happy as getting in the ring with Jason to fight for a title. That would be a lot of fun for me.
Heavy.com: What do you think would be different in a rubber match with Miller?
Tim Kennedy: I pretty much crushed Jason for two rounds, like destroyed him and got cut in the second round and scooped blood out of my eyes for the last round. It was a very frustrating, irritating fight. I was never hurt at any point. I got up the next day, put some stitches on my nose, and was in the gym the day after that. It’s a really irritating loss to know that you’re destroying a guy and whatever the rules were, I get elbowed and cut and that changed the whole course of the fight, not being able to see. So I’m going to eliminate the possibility of those things happening. I know what the rules are and I know the rules in Strikeforceand making sure the referees know what they are and that they’re enforced. Then I’m just going to do exactly what I was doing in the last fight and maul him.
Heavy.com: Off topic a little bit here, I know you’re good friends with Chuck Liddell. Any predictions on how he’ll do on Dancing With The Stars?
Tim Kennedy: Yes. He’s gonna crush it. That guy has been training his amazingly little tush off. And when I say amazingly little tush, I mean that he is closer to his fight weight right now than he has ever been in his whole entire life. He has a six pack! He’s a dancing dude right now and the guy has a six pack. It’s unbelievable. I actually just sent out a mass text and email to all my friends today being like “Hey, watch Dancing With The Stars! Vote for Chuck!” It was kind of humiliating that I had to say it to all my Special Forces friends and besides the fact that I’m going to be ostracized and excommunicated from the community I still had to tell them. I actually just pulled up to a friend’s house to watch Dancing With The Stars and also to watch them eat while I sit there and whine. Everyone who’s reading this, vote for Chuck!
Heavy.com: One last thing I wanted to ask you about. I was talking to Nick Palmisciano from Ranger Up and he had just gotten back from Iraq and was putting on an MMA fight over there. Is there anything you know about that or can tell us about?
Tim Kennedy: Yeah, it’s gonna be on… I can’t tell you which channel, but they did a pro MMA show in Iraq. There is a ton of media coverage on it that just hasn’t been released yet. It has to go through the Public Affairs channels throughout the military to make sure everything’s kosher and then they’ll release it. Exciting, great fights. They have soldiers that are living and training in Iraq and they put on a pro MMA show. It’s awesome. Nick flew over there, helped put on the show, was wrapping guys’ hands, was giving guys IVs after they cut weight. It was an amazing experience for him and for Ranger Up as a company to be a part of it.
Heavy.com: Anything else you’d like to add?
Tim Kennedy: All my brothers that are overseas right now I’m sorry I’m not with you, I love you guys, I wish I was there with you. Everybody at RangerUp.com thanks for the support and the support at the ArmyCombatives tournament years back, you guys are amazing. Also, Soldier’s Angels, it’s a nonprofit that I do a lot of stuff with. I can’t even begin to say how amazing they are. And of course my last two sponsors Cash 4 Gold and Sprawl .Thanks for the support and I hope I can bring you guys some business!