Was Tim Kennedy ever in serious consideration to coach opposite Michael Bisping for next season’s “Ultimate Fighter” reality show? Yes, he was. And realistically, no he wasn’t. Kennedy was a stand-by in the event Jason Miller couldn’t take the gig, but even by his own admission it was a pretty far-flung proposition.
“Yeah, we talked, but it really came down to [the fact that] I don’t have the name to push that show to the level it needed to,” Kennedy told ESPN.com. “I have like 7,000 followers on Twitter. Jason Miller has 120,000. His name is much more recognizable internationally. A lot more different realms than just MMA. Yeah, everybody in MMA knows who I am. But he kind of goes .. across, um, some lines for his notoriety. I’m trying to say that nicely.”
Kennedy didn’t get the televised coaching job. Nor did he get another crack at Strikeforce’s 185-pound strapholder Ronaldo Souza after manhandling Melvin Manhoef in March. Nor did he get a crossover fight against top-flight UFC fighters, which piqued his interest when Zuffa snapped up Strikeforce in March.
But he did get a ridiculously heavy-handed silver lining in Robbie Lawler for the July 30 card in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Kennedy is looking at Lawler as the gateway to better opportunities. If he beats him convincingly, he foresees at very least another chance at the middleweight title -- and in the abstract, bigger fights down the road with the UFC’s brand names.
“The potential for these super-fights for the level of competitiveness in the 185-pound weight class right now is out of this room,” he says about possible crossover fights with Zuffa’s other half. “It’s exciting. There are match-ups I really want to be a part of. Again, I have to go out there and win this fight and put on a good showing so that those can be considered.”
“As far as a title shot, I sure hope so, but I don’t know. I’m not the matchmaker, I’m not part of the promotion -- I’m just a fighter. So, I’m going to go out there and do the best thing that I can, which is to finish everybody that I fight. Everybody I beat, I finish. I can’t remember the last time I beat somebody in a decision -- I think it was 1998 or something. I think I have 13 finishes. I’ve got to finish this guy. I can’t go to a decision and be calling out the champ when I can barely get by the guy who just lost to him. I definitely need to make a statement.”
As luck would have it, the last time Kennedy won via decision was against none other than Jason Miller, at an Extreme Challenge event in 2003. Lawler has had one fight go to the judges in that time frame, and that was against Ronaldo Souza in June '10. Souza beat Kennedy via decision in August 2010 – the only other time he’s went the distance in a professional MMA bout. In other words, fights against anybody not named Souza usually result in a finish for both guys, and Kennedy likes the fact.
“Stylistically I think it plays into my strengths,” he says. “Everybody underestimates his wrestling. His wrestling credentials are far superior to mine -- the level of competition that he wrestled [in college]. He’s much more of an accomplished wrestler than I have ever been. So, I hear ignorant people say “you know, Tim’s just going to try and take him down,” and I’m like -- are you insane? Robbie’s a really, really good wrestler. It’s really hard. Like, if I don’t score takedowns, the guy’s going to murder me.
“It’s not going to be that easy. It’s going to be a back-and-forth battle, we’re going to work in the clinch, we’re going to be throwing big punches … so, it’s definitely going to be a fight.”
And very likely an early night for at least half of the competition.