Just a few years ago, many were lamenting the state of the UFC's Middleweight division, calling it a shallow talent pool with no real stars outside of longtime former champion, Anderson Silva. These days, it's a different story. Names like Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold, Tim Kennedy, Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort and Jacare have emerged as not only top contenders, but seem to be grabbing the spotlight more and more for themselves.
The dark cloud that's been hanging over the division, is the series of failed or missed tests among Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva. With Belfort's recent licensure in Nevada, a universal feeling of disappointment became an almost palpable entity. Among Vitor's longtime critics, Tim Kennedy has always been leary of his character.
In a recent interview with Bloody Elbow, Tim discussed the issues he has with Belfort's licensure, why the good will between Michael Bisping and himself never lasted and if fighting at 170 is still in the cards for him. Here's what he had to say:
Annoyance with cheaters
If we were playing soccer, just kicking balls around, or we're playing basketball, and you're using a performance enhancing drug to run faster and jump higher, it's going to be a minor irritation. Vitor and guys that are using a performance enhancing drugs to hit people in the head harder, well, that's totally different. We're not hitting balls out of a baseball stadium. We're hitting each other in the head with our shins.
The other thing is the money factor. He's making a ton of money from cheating with steroids. That's wrong. The big picture is this; it's a combative sport, and we're in there to knock each other out or submit each other. We're not playing a game.
I mean, we're talking about a guy that has failed drug tests multiple times during his career. Then, he's at his commission hearing, to talk about his failed drug test, and instead of getting discipline, he's awarded a title shot. Look at Chael Sonnen, ‘Oh, we're not going to fine him. We're just going to suspend him. We're going to suspend a guy that's already retired, and probably give him another job somewhere down the road.' Yeah, nothing wrong there. What a horrible day for the sport.
Will Vitor make it to the fight?
Okay, it's one of two things; either he gets to use steroids-he's training, has wonderful doctors that get him through it all-and he's able to compete, barely getting through with his drug tests. There's like a 1 in 10 chance of that scenario happening.
The other factors are that he tries to be clean, and he realizes that he can't compete. Or he tries to go clean and gets hurt. Or he just uses the steroids and gets caught. One of those 3 options are the likelihood of the other 90%.
Being ready to step in
I know Luke (Rockhold) was talking about this. He's 2-1 in the UFC. I'll be 4-0 after my fight, so I think Jacare and I will have a little bit better position to try to talk our way into a title fight. I fight September 27th, and following that, I'm going to try to be 100% ready for that December fight card. It's kind of funny that the 3 Strikeforce guys are the top contenders [laughs].
Chris is a great champion, and the best guy at our weight on the planet right now, but Luke, Jacare and I are good stylistic fits for him, and we present him with the best fights in the division. In my opinion, we're the toughest fights for him.
Vitor Belfort is not the old dinosaur or young dinosaur or whatever they call him. He's a broken steroid addict. If he fights natural, he doesn't stand a chance against Chris. If he's juiced to the gills, he's dangerous to anybody.
He was going at it with Luke on Twitter the other day, and I chimed in. He didn't like that too much and got mad at me. I don't know what's going on there. I was trying to be cool after our fight, shook hands and was ready to bury the hatchet. Then 30 minutes after the fight, he's tweeting how he got bored and went to sleep because somebody was lying on top of him.
I said it before the fight, we're never going to be buddies. We're not going to be pals. We're not going to be mates, drinking a pint down at the pub. He's just not the class of guy that I would ever associate myself with.
He's got a 42 year old Cung Le in front of him. Cung is dangerous...in a round. In one round, but still dangerous. When I was ranked Number 11, I talked my way into a fight with the Number 5 guy, Bisping. Now he's ranked at whatever it is, and maybe he's trying to score another fight by chiming in to the 5 and 6 guys. Maybe. Or maybe he's just not a cool dude, one that always talks smack.
There is that guy in the gym that's always wearing the Affliction gear or TapouT gear, with a straight bill baseball cap. He is the toughest, loudest guy in the gym, or so he thinks. Maybe Bisping is that guy.
Dropping to 170
It is definitely still in consideration. Robbie Lawler is going to be fighting Johny Hendricks again. Lawler is a guy that I've fought before and we had a really great fight. I see Robbie getting that title and then I'm coming after him.
I don't know when this would happen, to be honest. There's a lot going on right now. I've got a fight in front of me on September 27th and there's a possibility I could need to be ready in December. If that doesn't happen, and Joe Silva wanted to have a Strikeforce guys title eliminator series of sorts, I don't know...maybe I could drop down and get a title shot there within a fight? I don't know. We'll have to see how the two divisions play out.
You can follow Tim via his Twitter account, @TimKennedyMMA