Tim Kennedy probably missed his calling. He's one of the world's finest mixed martial arts fighters, and he'll meet Rafael Natal on Wednesday in the main event of the UFC's Fight for the Troops 3 at Fort Campbell, Ky.
Fighting at Fort Campbell, an Army base located in both Tennessee and Kentucky, is appropriate because Kennedy is a decorated Army veteran who received the Bronze Star Medal for combat heroism.
It's also an honor earned by Secretary of State John Kerry, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Vice President Spiro Agnew and Air Force Gen. Chuck Yeager.
As good as Kennedy is at this fighting and combat thing – he is 16-4 in MMA and had many other fights in the military – he's perhaps best at humor.
He was originally slated to face former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida on Wednesday, but when Michael Bisping injured his eye, the UFC shuffled the deck and put Machida in Bisping's place against Mark Munoz in a Fight Night card in Manchester, England, last month.
For a couple of weeks while the UFC attempted to land Kennedy an opponent, he jokingly tried to pick fights with a series of other fighters.
He tweeted to heavyweight Alistair Overeem, "You vs me (catch weight) Nov 6th at UFC Fight for the Troops 3. Winner gets a lifetime supply of horsemeat."
He also posted photos of himself with a mime's mask and wearing a wig soaking in a tub. He wrote, "All UFC fighters, this is the dude that you are all too scared to fight."
But the light-hearted Kennedy is a must-follow on Twitter because even once he had an opponent, he kept the jokes up.
He shot a photo of a billboard for a soft drink company that showed a can of soda with the word, "Tastetosterone." He then wrote in a tweet, "I bet a bunch of fighters would love to get their hands on this. Maybe the athletic commissions will give exemptions".
He's as fun and light-hearted of a professional athlete as there is, and he regularly interacts with his fans on social media.
But the focus on his playful nature and sense of humor, which is often self-deprecating, can obscure the fact that he's one of the world's elite fighters.
He's 8-2 in his last 10 fights, with his only losses coming in close Strikeforce championship fights to Jacare Souza and Luke Rockhold, who are now ranked third and sixth, respectively, in the official UFC middleweight ratings.
In Natal, he's facing another difficult but largely unknown opponent.
"They're both very tough guys, but in different ways," Kennedy said. "Natal is underrated. He may be unknown, but he's a very tough guy. It's been very easy to get prepared for this fight mentally, because I know how tough he is. It's not like going from Machida to Natal is going to be easy. Hell, no. He's super tough, but in a whole bunch of different ways.
"He hits hard, he has a good chin, he has good submissions, he has solid wrestling. He presents a whole bunch of problems."
But the thing that Kennedy has longed for that he won't get from fighting Natal is the attention that comes from taking on one of the UFC's many big-name fighters.
The UFC is the world's top MMA promotion for many reasons, one of them being the great depth of elite fighters it has in each weight class.
But there is only room for a few stars, and so Kennedy has spent much of his very successful career fighting tough guys who didn't have the cachet that guys like Machida, ex-UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva or Chael Sonnen have.
A match with someone like Natal is a fight; one with Silva becomes an event, and that is really Kennedy's goal, to get into a bout that becomes an event.
"I still haven't in my career gotten to fight one of the guys with the name recognition like Anderson Silva or Chael Sonnen or Dan Henderson," Kennedy said. "Those are the fights I really long for. I really want to fight the guys everybody knows, and the guys who are regarded as the greatest ever. I want that in 2014."
To accomplish that goal, he'll use his skill mixed with a whole lot of humor to get UFC president Dana White to grant his wish.
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Martial Arts
- Tim Kennedy
- Lyoto Machida