by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Tim Kennedy fights Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza for the vacant Strikeforce middleweight title on Aug. 21, but Souza wasn’t his first choice in a battle for the belt.

Kennedy wanted to compete against former titleholder Jake Shields.

Shields vacated the Strikeforce crown and was released by the organization in June following an inability to agree on contractual terms. Shields quickly inked a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and will debut with the Las Vegas based promotion at UFC 121 on Oct. 23 against Martin Kampmann.

“I did want to fight the legitimate champion. I wanted to go in there and the champ has the belt. I’m the contender, and I beat the champ, and it’s my belt. And it’s my job to defend it,” Kennedy told MMAWeekly.com. “I was very excited and anxious for that and then it didn’t happen.”

Kennedy was anxious because he and Shields have known each other for more than a decade and it was Shields’ influence that prompted Kennedy to transition from traditional martial arts to mixed martial arts.

“Jake and I, we’re not good friends, but we’ve known each other for 14 years now. He was actually the one that introduced me to MMA, brought me from the Japanese martial arts school that I had been to The Pit,” explained Kennedy.

“There were some apprehensions about the possibility of me fighting him, but the more fights I had in Strikeforce, the more inevitable that it seemed.”

Slightly disappointed that he’s competing for a vacant title, Kennedy insists it will not change his approach to the match-up with Souza.

“I was bummed, but it doesn’t change how I’m doing this fight or how I trained for it. Fortunately Jake and Jacare are kind of similar in how they approach their MMA fights, so it worked out well.”