Most fighters have a calling to do something special. And for most, that calling is to achieve the pinnacle of their sport, becoming a world champion.
Make no mistake about it, Strikeforce fighter Tim Kennedy wants a world title belt, but his calling as a fighter goes well beyond the tangible assets that the sport itself can provide.
Kennedy won an Extreme Challenge eight-man middleweight tournament in the early part of his career, defeating the likes of Ryan Narte, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, and Cruz Chacon, all in one night. The victory earned him a shot at a bigger tournament at Super Brawl in Hawaii, an event that would be attended by UFC president Dana White.
It was a huge opportunity for sure.
Kennedy passed on it. He had something, quite literally, more important to do.
He headed off to the Army, where he would become part of the elite Special Forces and serve tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Though he’s not currently serving active duty overseas, Kennedy still has a more important calling than winning a title belt. He uses his fight career to help promote causes that are near and dear to him, charitable causes that have to do with the brothers and sisters he served alongside, and many that he didn’t, in the Middle East.
“I’m not joking, it is why I fight,” Kennedy stated recently on MMAWeekly Radio. “If I didn’t think I could represent the military and the military community the way that I do and the way that I have, I’d be done fighting.”
Lucky for MMA fans, he can and does represent the military and the military community the way that he wants. And being able to do that has lead us to his middleweight showdown with Robbie Lawler at Saturday night’s Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson event in Chicago.
With such a strong military background, it’s no surprise that Kennedy thinks deeply about tactics when he approaches his fights.
“Robbie is such a talented and gifted wrestler, for me to do what I did against Melvin (Manhoef), which was stay on the outside, feint shots, and then actually shooting shots, scoring a takedown after the first or second try, that’s not going to work against Robbie,” Kennedy explained when comparing his last opponent to his next.
“I actually have to get in there and work for the clinch, work to close the distance, try to do damage in the clinch, try to do damage when I’m coming inside, try to make him respect my hands, so that I can actually score a takedown.”
But then there are some tactics that just aren’t, well, all that tactical. Like avoiding Lawler’s infamous one-punch knockout power.
“Keep your chin down and your hands up,” Kennedy answers bluntly when talking about avoiding Lawler’s big finishing move.
That’s not to say that he hasn’t prepared for the southpaw’s power shot.
He’s had some of the best strikers in the business to train alongside at Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn’s camp in New Mexico. Count Jorge Rivera, Joey Villasenor, Keith Jardine, Donald Cerrone, Brian Stann, and others among his sparring partners at his “home away from home.”
Kennedy is taking nothing for granted against Lawler. In fact, he thinks Lawler is the most dangerous fighter in the Strikeforce middleweight division, aside from middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, whom Lawler and Kennedy both lost too.
But that is precisely why Kennedy wants to fight him. Though he has a more important reason for fighting than winning belts, that doesn’t mean that a world title isn’t a goal.
“(Lawler) is consistently in the Top 10 and I just want to fight the best guys right now,” Kennedy stated.
“Strikeforce is signing a lot of really talented guys right now, a lot of guys from Brazil, a lot of guys from Japan. I would really like to welcome a lot of those guys to the United States, into my cage.
“If (Strikeforce feels) they want to put me in another fight before I can hop in there for a title fight, fine, I’ll take it. But if they’re ready for me to have another title shot, I’m hungry. I want to be in there. I want to fight for five rounds. I want to beat the champ.”
And rest assured, if he does one day become champ, Kennedy’s victory would resonate all the way to the Middle East.
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