A fighting career is rarely an easy thing to walk away from, but it seems Tim Kennedy has come to the conclusion that it’s time to do just that. The 37-year-old Special Forces sniper turned MMA fighter started his career back in 2001, competing for organizations like the WEC and IFL, going 9-2 on his way to earning a contract with Strikeforce.
Under the Showtime promotion, Kennedy racked up an impressive 6-2 record, defeating Zak Cummings, Trevor Prangley, Melvin Manhoef, and even eventual UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler. Kennedy’s two title shots, against Jacare Souza and Luke Rockhold over that stretch, account for his only two losses in the promotion.
Following Strikeforce’s acquisition by the UFC, Kennedy moved over to the Zuffa promotion and into its middleweight division in 2013. He quickly carved out a spot in the top 10, with wins over Roger Gracie, Rafael Natal, and current middleweight champion Micheal Bisping. A controversial TKO loss to Yoel Romero marked the first stoppage loss of Kennedy’s career since his debut, and pushed him into a two year hiatus from fighting.
Kennedy returned at UFC 206, in December of 2016, taking on former top ranked welterweight (and somewhat unwilling middleweight) Kelvin Gastelum. After a strong start, Kennedy faded to Gastelum’s superior range boxing, suffering his second TKO loss in a row. In a recent post on Facebook, Kennedy announced that that latest loss would mark the end of his MMA career:
“Sitting in the ER at Saint Michael’s hospital in Toronto, Canada after my fight, I looked up at my buddy Nick Palmisciano who had ridden in the ambulance with me. This wasn’t our first time in this situation. I’d been here a few times in our past decade together. Sometimes for wins and sometimes for losses. The end result always looked the same: Nick carrying five bags that should have been split among three corners and me and my face are bleeding and swollen. ‘That’s it man,’ I said. ‘We’re all done.’
“We had talked about it a lot over the past few years. I’d spoken to Nick, to my wife Ginger, and to Greg Jackson and Brandon Gibson ad nauseam about the coming end. No matter how hard I trained, I knew this ride wouldn’t last forever. But saying it out loud definitely brought me both sadness that this chapter was complete and overwhelming relief that it’s a decision I could make without worrying about taking care of my family.
“I had just lost to Kelvin Gastelum, a really respectful and hard-working young fighter who went out and did all the things I consider myself good at, but did them better. He actually reminded me of me when I was younger, except I was kind of a jerk back then. As losses go, I was kind of happy I lost to a guy like him.
“A lot of my coaches, friends and fans immediately tried to build me up again. ‘Kelvin has the right skillset to beat you and it was your first fight back.’ ‘You had ring rust.’ ‘You’re still a top 10 middleweight.’ I appreciated their comments and I don’t think they are wrong. I know I am still a good fighter. I know I was away a while. But they didn’t feel what I felt, and that’s being 37. I felt like I was in slow motion the entire match. I felt tired for the first time ever in a fight. I’m the guy that once graduated Ranger School – a place that starves you and denies you sleep for over two months – and took a fight six days later in the IFL and won. I’m the guy that is always in shape. And I was for this fight. I worked harder than I ever have before for this fight. But I wasn’t me anymore. My brain knew what to do but my body did not respond. I’ve watched other fighters arrive here. I’ve watched other fighters pretend they weren’t here. I will not be one of them.
“I want to thank the military community for their support. I’ll never be able to explain how much you motivated me and how much I always tried to make you proud. I’ve been a professional fighter for two decades, but there was no greater moment for me than winning the main event of Fight for the Troops 3. You made me invincible that night. I will keep fighting for you all until the day I die.
“I want to thank all of my coaches, from the old Days working with John Hackleman and Chuck Liddell, to all my military buddies who trained with me while I was on active duty, to Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn, and Brandon Gibson now. That you all thought me worthy of the investment of your time means more than you will ever know.
“I want to thank all of my opponents. Iron sharpens iron and every great victory or crushing defeat occurred because there was someone who trained hard and had the courage to meet me across the cage. I want to call a few guys out in particular. To Luke Rockhold and Jacare: you guys gave me two grinding fights that asked for everything I had. You both made me better and I hope I did the same for you. I hope the two of you keep that Strikeforce chip on your shoulders and get back on top. To Robbie Lawler: you hit me harder than anyone ever has. Seriously, that really hurt. To Roger Gracie: My training for your fight reminded me that I love the gi. Thank you for that. To Rafael Natal: It took tremendous guts to take the Fight for the Troops fight. I will always appreciate you for that and cheer for you every time you fight. To Michael Bisping: I’ve never wanted to beat anyone more than I wanted to beat you, and that motivated me to provide the best version of myself. Best of luck to you going forward, Champ.
“Finally to my wife: I don’t deserve you and you don’t deserve what I’ve put you through. I could lie to you and tell you it’s all over, but we both know I have already moved onto another super dangerous thing to fill my time, so I’m going to leave it just at ‘thank you and sorry’ for now.
“So with that, to all of you fighters out there, I am not going anywhere. I love fighting and will always have the heart of a figher. I am committed to growing our sport and taking care of those who are a part of it. As sad as it is for me to walk away, the only thing sadder would be for me to stay because I had no other choice in order to feed my family. Someday the Kelvin Gastelum’s and the Yair Rodriguez's and the Paige VanZant’s will be sitting in their respective emergency rooms with their respective Nick’s talking about it being over. And when that day comes, I want to make sure their future is secure.
“I love you all. Thanks for listening. And thank you most of all for giving me the opportunity to do what I love for all these years.”
Kennedy has been an often divisive figure for his sentiments and statements delivered outside the cage, but he gave 15 years of his life to fighting and was pretty darn good at it. He’ll end his career with an 18-6 record.
Most recently, as he alluded to in the penultimate paragraph of his farewell, Kennedy has been one of the founding cornerstones of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association, a group looking to bring collective bargaining to the UFC. So, while his MMA career may be over, he may yet have a lot of fighting ahead of him.