Kennedy Eyed for Proposed Middleweight Tourney

By Loretta Hunt Jun 17, 2010
With a commanding submission victory on Wednesday, Tim Kennedy buoyed into Strikeforce’s ever-changing middleweight title picture. Kennedy caught seasoned veteran Trevor Prangley in a first-round rear-naked choke at Strikeforce “Live” in Los Angeles, out-scrambling and trapping the decorated South African wrestler in the first frame.

Kennedy’s victory could earn him a slot in a proposed eight-man tournament to crown a new middleweight champion should Jake Shields vacate the promotion for the UFC. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said others also being considered include Dan Henderson Robbie Lawler, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Kazuo Misaki and the winner of next week's Scott Smith-Cung Le rematch in the multi-night single-elimination tournament. Coker estimates the tournament could be underway in 2-3 months if Shields exits the promotion.

Kennedy, who is still a registered serviceman with the U.S. Army’s Special Forces based out of San Antonio, said he has entered a new phase of his career now that the Texas National Guard is supporting his full-time training schedule. (As a special military representative within the sport, Kennedy made sure to mention that Strikeforce “Live” had broadcasted live on the Armed Force Network to military bases around the world.)

“Every fight thus far, I’d split my time between the Special Forces and being a professional athlete,” said Kennedy during the post-fight press conference. “This is the first in eight years that I’m training (full time), so we have no idea what the potential is right now.”

The 30-year-old Kennedy also downplayed his place in the middleweight division’s still-evolving pecking order.

“I want my hands on a whole bunch of guys. I’ve lost to some guys in the division, so I’m not sure I can say anything about a title shot yet,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy has been defeated by fellow Strikeforce fighters Jason “Mayhem” Miller (in a 2007 rematch) and Scott Smith (in 2001) -- the only two losses on his career docket.

“Before I go out there and say, ‘Give me a title shot,’ I want to work my way to the top,” he said.

However, circumstances out of Kennedy’s control look to put him in the title hunt faster than expected. Before Wednesday’s event, Coker had said the promotion hoped to match Lawler against Souza for the possibly vacated championship, but Lawler’s defeat to Renato “Babalu” Sobral prompted the promotion to move to the tournament scenario.

“We’d made a commitment (to Lawler), but it worked out a little differently for Robbie tonight then you’d hope for,” said Coker.

Kennedy had previously told that he’d accept a tournament assignment if offered one, but wouldn’t heavily campaign for consideration on his own. In fact, Kennedy’s only request for Strikeforce came in the form of a plea for a future opponent without a wrestling pedigree.

“They keep giving me these wrestlers who have heavy hands, so guess what I’m going to do? I’m going to put them on my back and submit them. How about you give me a jiu-jitsu guy so I can knock him out because I need a better knockout reel,” said Kennedy.

The Austin, Texas-based Kennedy said he emerged from the Prangley bout uninjured and will resume training next week, making a trip to The Pit in San Luis Obispo, Calif., a camp he trained with a few years ago.

“The game plan was to keep pressure on him in the first round,” said Kennedy of the Prangley tilt. “I was planning on being able to show off a little bit because I have metabolic conditioning that’s-- I don’t have a gas tank that’s ever going to run out and you were going to see some crazy stuff in the second and third round. We just didn’t get there.”

Two more rounds weren’t necessary for Coker, though. He said he’d seen enough to know Kennedy has great potential in the promotion’s middleweight division.

“We’ve tried to sign Tim two years ago and we couldn’t put it together because he decided to go back into the Armed Forces and serve and protect our country. So, it’s a true American hero sitting here to my left. From here on out, he’s training full time and we’re going to keep him very busy.”
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