Inside Fights Exclusive: Tim Kennedy Interview

On Saturday night Tim Kennedy will step into Houston’s Toyota Centre to face Jacare Souza for the vacant Strikeforce Middleweight Title but he’s refusing to be blinded by the gold. Kennedy tells me that he sees championships as a ‘by-product’ of a fighter’s hard work explaining that if a fighter keeps winning then every next fight is their biggest fight yet because they’re “fighting better guys”. He is clear that what truly motivates him is not the glamorous trappings of success but the chance to test himself against the best in the sport.

In Souza he sees an opponent that will give him an ‘exciting fight’ saying that the two of them are undoubtedly the fighters that should be fighting for the promotion’s vacant middleweight title. Their styles mesh in what Kennedy himself describes as “one of those iconic MMA battles of the heavy handed striker against the skilled grappler” with ten of Souza’s victories coming by submission while Kennedy has tended to rely on his explosive punching to finish fights. He however warns against those who dismiss the grappling skills that have brought him submission victories in his last two fights, saying that “he could surprise Sousa by submitting him” and in any case will be looking to finish the fight within the distance.

Originally it had been planned for Strikeforce: Houston to host a one-night tournament to crown the new middleweight champion but Commission regulations eventually scuppered that plan. Kennedy says that he “was looking forward to competing in a tournament” as such a format “would be to my benefit as I’m usually the guy in the best condition and gets the least damage done to me”. Instead the tournament will take place later in the year and will determine who will be the new number-one contender in the middleweight division, with the rumored field including the only two men to have ever defeated Kennedy; Scott Smith and Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller. Kennedy explains that while he would love to face either man again but that if he was to become champion he wouldn’t want title fights “to be about me being the champion” but instead to be focused on “who is the most deserving to fight for the title”.

With Kennedy firmly established in the upper echelons of the Strikeforce middleweight division it’s easy to forget that its only a year since he made his return to the world of MMA after an eighteen month absence. The absence was due to Kennedy serving overseas in the American military with Kennedy having been combining his developing career as fighter with life as a solider since 2004. Kennedy believes that his experiences as a soldier have made him a better fighter, giving him the discipline the fully dedicate himself to his training and helping him remain calm during fights because no matter what’s happening in a fight he’s “doing something I love rather than getting shot at”.

Ranger Up Talks to Tim Kennedy

Kennedy tells me that his first fight back against Nick Thompson “felt wonderful” as he felt “very little ring rust and was just excited to be in there”. And he hasn’t looked back since that fight, not only winning all four of his fights with Strikeforce but winning all of them comfortably inside the distance. He puts his development as a fighter down to being able to dedicate more time to MMA saying that “training like a full-time athlete makes you a full-time athlete” with his improved training making him a “more rounded and dangerous fighter”. He credits his team for helping to become a more technical fighter, with the insight of the likes of Brandon Gardner, Jason Webster and Greg Jackson helping him to “put all my stuff together”.

Saturday night will be about more than just winning a fight for Tim Kennedy, with the event also being a chance for him to perform in front of his newly adopted home state. Since returning to America he has been serving at the Texas State National Guard, with the military supporting his MMA career both in terms of giving him “adequate time to prepare for fights and the necessary resources for training camps”. Saturday’s fight will therefore be something of a homecoming for this new Texan with Kennedy expecting to receive vocal crowd support from not only his friends and family in Texas turnout but also members of the Texan military community.

Over the past year Tim Kennedy has developed in leaps and bounds as a mixed martial artist and when he faces Jacare Souza for the Strikeforce Middleweight Title will be one victory away from announcing himself a major figure at 185Ibs. But despite all this success, his fellow soldiers serving overseas are still never far from his mind, with Kennedy ending our interview by thanking them “for the sacrifices they make to protect us from terrorists”.

You can find at more about Tim Kennedy by reading his Official Bio or follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/TimKennedyMMA.

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