Following his first loss in the UFC in February to Merab Dvalishvili, bantamweight Casey Kenney was looking to recoup a little bit before returning to the promotion in the spring when the novel coronavirus hit and sent the sport into temporary lockdown.
While at first the lockdown didn’t affect Kenney much, once he wanted to put more time into training he had a bit of a slow start before finding more familiar ground.
“As a fighter, I had just fought, so being in the gym every day wasn’t a necessity,” Kenney told MMAWeekly.com. “At the beginning of (lockdown) I got a little break from the gym, which was a little nice.
“I was able to do some stuff on my own, but really once we got a few friends to train with and everything we kind of got back on a normal schedule a lot sooner than a lot of other people did. The last couple of weeks Arizona has been pretty much back to normal.”
Whether it’s due to what they feel is a lack of proper training or apprehensions about fighting while there’s still an active pandemic, some fighters have passed on proposed fights. For Kenney, who has made a career of taking bouts on short notice, getting the call to fight on one of the first UFC cards back was just what he was looking for.
“I’m always ready to go,” said Kenney. “I didn’t hesitate at all on it. From what I’m hearing, not everyone was willing to step up for that. I’m glad I can be one of those that can jump up.”
On Saturday in Las Vegas, Kenney (13-2-1) will look to rebound when he faces Louis Smolka (16-6) in a 135-pound preliminary bout at UFC on ESPN 9: Woodley vs. Burns.
“I really like the match-up,” Kenney said. “It’s a little different than my last match-up with Merab. Louis likes to stand there, trade with you, and he’s got a similar grappling style to me. It should be exciting.
“I think I’ve just got to go out, control the fight, land my shots when I need to, and see what happens.”
For someone who is as active as he can be, getting another opportunity to step back into the octagon sooner than later is exactly what Kenney wants following his bout with Smolka.
“No matter what happens with this fight, I’m ready to go,” said Kenney. “This is what I like to do. I’d jump back in there, but obviously I’ve got a tough task in front of me in Smolka.
“I’m going to focus on that. I’m not really looking ahead to another opponent. I know I’m going to want to get back in there regardless of what happens. Smolka is the task at hand for now, so I’m going to focus on him before the next one.”