Tim Kennedy soldiers toward MMA title shot
Tim Kennedy is torn between two worlds.
As a mixed martial arts fighter, Kennedy is one of the top middleweights in the world, looking to beat the best while winning world titles. As an Army Special Forces Green Beret, Kennedy has spent extensive time in Afghanistan and South America. No matter which of those two worlds he is living in, he yearns for the other.
“It’s torture both ways. When I’m not overseas, I regret not being overseas,” Kennedy said, noting he stays in the loop about what’s happening in the military.
“It drives me insane, but when I’m overseas, it’s agony to be away from my family for that long. It’s torture to watch guys who I know I can compete against have such great success in MMA. Right now I’ve dedicated myself to MMA and in a little bit, I’ll go back and finish my career.”
That current dedication to MMA has put Kennedy (13-3) in a big fight July 30 at “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson” in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Kennedy will battle former EliteXC middleweight champion Robbie Lawler in a crucial bout that could determine the next contender for Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza’s title.
Despite Kennedy’s solid record, this is his first stint as a full-time mixed martial artist. Prior, he fought in between deployments and tours of duty. Now he’s training full-time, and it’s paying off. Since signing with Strikeforce in 2009, Kennedy is 4-1 with four submission finishes and the only loss coming to Souza.
Learning to compete
It’s a big change from the days where he went into fights with little preparation.
“It was kind of working, but I just couldn’t compete at a high level because I didn’t have the time to train,” Kennedy said. “I was tough and fairly good, so I could beat most the guys on the local circuit, but for me to complete at a really elite level, I had to really dedicate myself to one or the other.”
He said the Army helped him understand discipline better and that, in turn, has helped make him a better fighter.
“Before, I just went off my God-given athletic genetics that my family gave me,” Kennedy said. “I never trained like I should, I never had fight camps. I would just fight. Now I’m very disciplined in how I approach my preparations for a fight. I can just attribute that to the discipline the Army taught me.”
That’s why it’s such a struggle for Kennedy. He loves the Army, but he also loves being home, competing in MMA and being with his family. Knowing his time in MMA is short-lived, Kennedy wants to accomplish as much as he can before heading back into the military. He wants to be Strikeforce middleweight champion, win the UFC title and beat world No. 1 middleweight Anderson Silva.
But when he does go back to the Army, he’ll leave behind a wife and two daughters, eight and nine, who both are growing up quickly when it comes to the real world and what daddy does.
“I used to tell them I was going away to kill zombies and they thought that was really funny and cute, but now they can see the news,” Kennedy said. “They know what an IED is. They know what post-traumatic stress is. When an eight-year old is like, ‘Daddy, do you have PTSD?’ you’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ So they totally get it. There’s no zombie wars. They know where I’m going, when I’m going, so it makes it tougher.”
Despite his notoriety, Kennedy stresses he is no different than any other soldier who is making sacrifices for their country.
“That’s a sacrifice hundreds of thousands of soldiers make every single day,” he said. “Why should it be any different for me? It’s absolute hell to walk away from your family for six months, 12 months, 18 months at a time like soldiers do every single day. I’m no better than any of them and every one of these guys are making the same sacrifice I’ll be making.”
For now, Kennedy is focused on MMA, but it won’t be long before he’s back overseas. And just like he has goals in mixed martial arts, Kennedy has his sights set on some specific things in the Army, as well.
“I’ve been an operator for eight years now,” he said. “I want to lead a team in combat. I’m a shooter, I’ve been a door-kicker, a sniper, now I want to be a commander. I want to lead an (Operational Detachment Alpha) in combat. Not for the sake of doing it, but I know I’m a good leader, I’m very experienced and I think I can contribute.”
Matt Bishop is a reporter and radio host at BloodyElbow.com. Read his MMA column for The Detroit News, “The KO Corner,” every Friday at detnews.com.
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