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Tim Kennedy: If I beat Robbie Lawler this Saturday 'there's no question I should fight for the title'

American, mixed martial artist, soldier, patriot.

There are many words that define Strikeforce middleweight Tim Kennedy but there's one that's eluded him thus far: champion.

The Army Green Beret came up just short in his last title opportunity, losing a decision to Ronaldo Souza while fighting to fill Jake Shields' vacated Strikeforce middleweight title.

After an impressive rebounding submission against Melvin Manhoef this past March, the proud Texan has a tremendous test in front of him this Saturday night (July 30, 2011) as he's slated to battle "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler on the main card of Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson" in Chicago, Illinois.

Kennedy spoke with me as a guest on the Bloody Elbow Radio show this past Thursday and he discussed everything from Lawler, his title aspirations as well as a very interesting rant against performance enhancing drug users.

The Greg Jackson product cuts to the chase after the jump.

Brian Hemminger: This is a fight with Robbie Lawler that you actually asked for at the post-fight press conference. The night you had finished Melvin Manhoef, you were already ready to go against Robbie Lawler. How does it feel that this is coming to fruition?

Tim Kennedy: It feels great. The reason I asked for him is because I felt he was the next best guy to Jacare and the rankings say so as well. I knew they weren't gonna give me an immediate title shot so I just wanted to fight the next best guy. I want to get in there against the best guys in my division and Robbie's the next best guy.

Brian Hemminger: Now you're a former challengers and Robbie is also coming off a title challenge. Do you feel that the winner of this fight, especially if it's you, should be getting the next title shot after Luke Rockhold?

Tim Kennedy: I hope so. I'm not a matchmaker so I'm not one to say. Sometimes I don't understand how they make the matches or why they promote certain fights so my job is to fight. If I go out there and put on a good performance, I feel that if I demonstrate what I can do at the level I'm at against Robbie, then I think there's no question I should be the guy fighting for the title. That's not for me to say though so I'm just gonna go out there, do the best that I can and hopefully everybody, all the journalists, all the syndicated writers in MMA and every fan will be like, "oh my gosh! Let Tim fight for the title," and then they won't have a choice.

Brian Hemminger: Right now, Luke Rockhold is slated to be the next title challengers. He's a guy that hasn't fought in a year and he's got a pretty big injury history. If you were to get past Robbie Lawler and Rockhold gets hurt, would you be willing to step up on short notice and take a fight against "Jacare" again?

Tim Kennedy: Heck yeah, absolutely. I'm kinda crazy. I train year round. I don't fight, take two months off, and then get back to the gym. I fight, take two days off to let my hands heal and then I'm back in the gym. I train year round and as soon as this fight's over, barring any injury, I'll be back in the gym that next week. I'll be training, prepared as a backup for if somebody were to fall out of that September card for the title. I'd love to get in there and fight either one of those guys.

Brian Hemminger: The fight with Robbie Lawler kinda came up on short notice. Can you talk about what it was like to take a fight on less than a month's notice?

Tim Kennedy: Yeah, short notice fights, they suck, but they happen in MMA a lot. People get hurt all the time. It's such a grueling, challenging process to prepare yourself for MMA. You're training boxing, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling and all of those are very dangerous sports to train in so being in the sport for as long as I have, you're prepared for short notice fights, they're just not ideal. They're tough. Three months is what you need to get ready for a fight, 30 days makes it a challenge. 

Brian Hemminger: Now you're training out of Greg Jackson's gym and those guys are known for how studious they are, how hard they work on gameplans preparing for fighters. Where do you see Robbie Lawler as most vulnerable?

Tim Kennedy: I think when he throws his punches he really opens his hands up. I can't get lured into a slugging match with him. If I fight a tight Muay Thai striking game, I think I can outstrike him. He's a great wrestler so me saying, "oh, I'm just gonna take him down because he's weak on the ground. Yeah, he's weak off his back but he's an amazing wrestler so I think I outclass him in the jiu-jitsu department but he outclasses me in the wrestling department which poses a real contrast in styles. We'll see where this fight ends up.

Brian Hemminger: You mentioned how Robbie's weak off his back. He's been submitted by Jake Shields, Mayhem Miller and Jacare. Where would you rank you submission skills with those guys, comparatively?

Tim Kennedy: You just listed the three greatest grapplers in MMA. Jacare is unquestionably the best jiu-jitsu practitioner in MMA. Jake Shields is the best submission grappler in all of MMA and Jason Miller is probably the toughest in the toughest grappler in a sense of the hybrid anti-jiu-jitsu wrestling in all of MMA. I don't know. It'd be pretty prideful for me to say, "oh, i'm just as good as those guys." I try to be as good as them. They're the ones that I aspire to be like but hopefully I'll have some of the skills that they do and I'll be able to do some of the things that they did which is control him both on the cage and on the ground. 

Brian Hemminger: In your last fight against Melvin Manhoef, you made some waves about how you wanted to knock out Melvin. Is that a goal against Lawler or is this different?

Tim Kennedy: It's always a goal. I hate going to decision. I absolutely loathe going to decisions. I like going out there and finishing fights. I like finishing with my hands. I've knocked out half my opponents and submitted the other half. When I say, "I want to knock him out," everybody envisions a knockout as a Holyfield left hook or a Mike Tyson uppercut. We're talking MMA, there are a ton of ways to knockout a dude. You can elbow a guy, you can him down and pound him into oblivion so I do want to finish Robbie and I feel there are a whole bunch of different ways to try and do it. I'll definitely be trying to finish him.

Brian Hemminger: Now you've been training at Greg Jackson's MMA for I believe about a year now. What's it like working with those guys alongside top middleweights like Brian Stann, obviously a fellow veteran. How has that been now that you've moved up into this top training camp?

Tim Kennedy: Embarrasing, humbling. They're so good. Every guy there is so talented, so gifted and so dedicated, it makes every workout and every practice very challenging, very painful and you've just got to go in there, put your best foot forward and keep training. 

Brian Hemminger: And will Greg Jackson be in your corner in Chicago?

Tim Kennedy: Yep. He's awesome. He's a great coach, a great corner man and he knows what he's doing. I'm excited to have him.

Brian Hemminger: There was some news recently about Ranger Up not being able to sponsor fighters in the cage, and not being able to wear their logo on shorts, etc. Can you talk about that? I know they said they'd still be paying fighters and still sponsor fighters. Can you talk about how that affects you?

Tim Kennedy: I've been with Ranger Up for six years. They have been so loyal to me in every single way they possibly can, supporting me as a sponsor. Even though I can't be wearing them on my shorts, I won't be wearing anybody. I will reciprocate that. It's gonna be symbiotic and they supported me and they'll continue to support me so I'm gonna be wearing blank fight shorts. I'll be wearing a blank t-shirt. I understand Zuffa is a great company and they're very business minded and they're the bosses so I cannot argue how or why they do things. I can just do what they tell me. I won't be wearing Ranger Up but I'll definitely be supporting them in every way I can. 

Brian Hemminger: You recently had a bit of a rant on twitter against people who use performance enhancing drugs, saying you'd like to fight them all. I know you're a guy that trains extremely hard. Can you talk about your mentality towards people who cheat?

Tim Kennedy: I hate cheaters. This is not like a "holier than though, I'm good, they're bad and let me show them that they're bad." That's not what it's about. I want it to be a testament that PEDs, performance enhancing drugs don't help you in MMA. They don't. One: you'll get caught and if you don't get caught? Your'e still mentally weaker than the guys that don't use them. I train three times a day, five days a week and two times a day on the days that I don't train three times. My mental state where I walk into a fight is I know I trained harder than anyone out there. I'm already in a better position than they are. You're shortchanging your ability and your potential by using performance enhancing drugs and I think I can demonstrate that by fighting the guys that cheat. I just hate cheaters. Additionally, MMA, mixed martial arts is founded upon honor and integrity. A martial artist is someone who'e dedicated and disciplined. They're not cheaters, they shouldn't be. The origin of our sport and martial arts should be integrity and guys who cheat, in my sport, it just makes me so embarrassed and disappointed. So yeah, I've kinda got a chip on my shoulder when guys are caught using drugs because it's absolutely against everything that MMA is founded on. I'll go out there and beat them up to prove that when you cheat, not only does it not benefit you but you can also get beat by the guys that don't. 

Brian Hemminger: Ok Tim, we'll wrap this up. What do you think fans can expect when you get in the cage against Robbie Lawler on July 30th?

Tim Kennedy: I think they can expect one heck of a fight. Robbie is a constant competitor. He's very experienced, he's a veteran. It's not like I'm gonna go out there and control this guy. He's top 10 in the world. I've got a lot to prove with this fight. He's very dangerous so you can expect fireworks. You can expect me to really bring the fight to him. I'm hoping for the fight of the night. We're gonna go out there and leave everything out there. 

To listen to the full audio of the interview, click here (55 minute mark.)

So Maniacs, will Kennedy have a case for a title shot with a victory on Saturday night? What do you think of his noble gesture towards Ranger Up with his blank fight shorts and shirt?

Sound off!

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