Tim Kennedy leads a conflicted life.
On one side is the family man and full-time professional fighter. The one who enjoys seeing his family all the time while training and working toward being a world mixed martial arts champion. The one who'll cook for you, the one who enjoys the simple things in life.
On the other side is the military man. The Army Special Forces Green Beret who wants so badly to be fighting alongside the men and women of the United States Army overseas. The one who is so dedicated to his fellow soldiers and country that he calls his time as a full-time fighter and family man "bittersweet."
Kennedy struggles daily as he goes through life trying to balance the want and the need to be in two places at once.
"But then when I'm (overseas), I know my daughters don't see me. I know my wife doesn't see me. I don't know where I belong. I belong in two places at the same time. I belong in the cage. I'm so happy when I'm fighting, I'm so happy when I'm training and with my family, but I'm miserable because I'm not overseas. When I'm overseas, I miss my family and I miss fighting. I don't know what to do."
For a long time, Kennedy was the military man. Professional fighting was a part-time gig for him, something he squeezed in to his schedule when he could. He rarely saw his family and it was "kind of getting to that place where something had to give." Something did. Now he's on an extended tour of duty. Only this time, it's at home.
"In my first four years of marriage, I never saw my beautiful wife," Kennedy said. "I have one heck of a woman and between Afghanistan, Iraq, multiple South American deployments, to different military schools, Sniper School, Ranger School, I never saw the lovely lady. That's bad for a marriage. It's hard for things to work right now when you're active duty going all the time, especially Special Forces. ... So (now) I come home from my workouts and I can have lunch with my wife. Then I get ready, ice my legs up, go to my next workout and repeat. I get to see her everyday. She gets to come to my fights, I'm not out of town. It's sweet, it's surreal, it's wonderful."
On the day we talked to Kennedy, both sides of his life were overlapping. He spent that day hanging out with one of his best friends, Justin, who came back from Afghanistan just hours earlier.
"He's spent the last four months in Afghanistan," Kennedy said.
Then he paused for a few seconds.
"You know, I wish I was there with him. That's where I should've been. He comes back and guys when they come back, they're always hurt, whether they show it physically or emotionally. Everybody sees things that takes time to get over. I hate that I'm not there or had been there with him so I can be here for him now. We're hanging out all day, going to lunch. We just went shopping and he gets to buy a pair of regular jeans for the first time in four months. It sucks that I'm not with them and I miss them all the time."
Kennedy said his Operational Detachment Alpha was deployed while he was getting ready for his Strikeforce: Los Angeles fight with Trevor Prangley. It was during this deployment that Kennedy's long-time sniper partner, the one he'd spent three years with, was ambushed.
"When he was on a rooftop, he got jumped by a terrorist. It turned into a really big fight," Kennedy said. "Thankfully, my partner survived, but I hear about this and it just eats me alive. It was literally torture festering inside of me. If I would've been there, that definitely wouldn't have happened. How many missions have I been on and I've always had his back. It's not like the new guy did anything wrong, but it's all the questions, the what ifs. If I was there, what would've been different?If I was there, would this have happened? If I was there, would my friend not have almost been murdered behind his back?"
The struggle is ongoing for Kennedy. The "what ifs" likely won't stop no matter where he finds himself. For now, though, Kennedy is home. He's making his life as a family man and a professional mixed martial artist with a 12-3 record. The other side of his life beckons, though. Kennedy doesn't plan to ride off into the sunset once he's finished as a professional fighter. For him, fighting, while full-time now, is only an interim stop on the long road of his life.
"I've got somewhat of a reprieve from being overseas and getting shot at and getting blown up, so I can fight," he said. "This is a very temporary thing for me. I'm going to be doing as many fights as I can and beating as many people as I can, to do as much as I can in this sport knowing that there's a very clear end point and I'm going to put back on the uniform and I'm going to go back and do some real fighting."
You can hear the entire interview with Tim Kennedy on last Tuesday's edition of Bloody Elbow Radio. Bloody Elbow Radio will be live this week at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday and Thursday and immediately following both "UFC on Versus 3" and "Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson."