UFC middleweight Tim Kennedy on Tuesday decided he will not fade away. While he hinted that Father Time may be catching up to him, Kennedy announced his retirement.
Still a Top 15-ranked middleweight, Kennedy spent the better part of 16 years weaving a successful career in mixed martial arts through his decorated military service. But he wants to leave the sport on his own terms, realizing that it was time to call it a career following a loss to Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 206 in Toronto.
“Sitting in the ER at Saint Michael’s hospital in Toronto, Canada, after my fight, I looked up at my buddy Nick Palmisciano who had ridden in the ambulance with me. He is a friend I didn’t deserve and a guy that stood with me from the beginning,” Kennedy recounted on Facebook. “‘That’s it man,’ I said. ‘We’re all done.’
“I knew this ride wouldn’t last forever. But saying it out loud definitely brought me both sadness that this chapter was complete and overwhelming relief that it’s a decision I could make without worrying about taking care of my family.”
As he always does, Kennedy poured his heart into the fight with Gastelum, but try as he might, he couldn’t keep the pace of the man 12 years his junior. Bloodied and bruised midway through the third round, Kennedy was still trying to get the fight to the ground, but Gastelum eventually dropped him with powerful punches and earned a TKO stoppage victory.
“I’m the guy that is always in shape. And I was for this fight. I worked harder than I ever have before for this fight. But I wasn’t me anymore,” said Kennedy. “My brain knew what to do, but my body did not respond. I’ve watched other fighters arrive here. I’ve watched other fighters pretend they weren’t here. I will not be one of them.”
Kennedy began his career in 2001, but just as he began to build some momentum – winning a one-night, eight-man Extreme Challenge middleweight tournament – he stepped away.
The infamous events of Sept. 11, 2001, left an indelible impression on Kennedy. He enlisted in the Army, becoming a Ranger assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group. He was deployed in the Middle East several times, serving multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning numerous honors, such as the Bronze Star for valor under fire.
Despite his military commitment, Kennedy re-started his MMA career as well. He twice challenged for the Strikeforce middleweight championship, but was unable to take the belt from Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza or Luke Rockhold.
When Zuffa assimilated Strikeforce into the UFC, Kennedy came along for the ride, spending the final four years of his career in the Octagon. A controversial loss to Yoel Romero derailed his title hopes, and then the loss to Gastelum swayed him into retirement.
Kennedy spearheaded a recent effort to organize fighters and push for a more robust future from fight promoters for the athletes. And even in turning out the light on his competitive career, Kennedy affirmed his commitment to his fellow fighters.
“To all of you fighters out there, I am not going anywhere. I love fighting and will always have the heart of a figher. I am committed to growing our sport and taking care of those who are a part of it. As sad as it is for me to walk away, the only thing sadder would be for me to stay because I had no other choice in order to feed my family,” said Kennedy.
“Someday the Kelvin Gastelum’s and the Yair Rodriguez’s and the Paige VanZant’s will be sitting in their respective emergency rooms with their respective Nick’s talking about it being over. And when that day comes, I want to make sure their future is secure.”
Kennedy exits the sport with an 18-6 professional record.