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Tim Kennedy: “We don’t have to be toe-to-toe for me to put a fist in his face and make him unconscious.”

Tim Kennedy is no stranger to adversity. A decorated Green Beret Sniper, Kennedy has been in areas of the world the average citizen can’t pronounce under conditions they can’t fathom. It is no doubt in part due to his military service the 31-year old middleweight has been able to weather a rough professional patch with relative calm after being sidelined since last August for reasons out of his control, then in the midst of a rotating door of opponents after being booked for Saturday night’s Strikeforce show in Columbus, Ohio.

With the proverbial spinner finally at rest on Melvin Manhoef in main card action, Kennedy recently took some time to speak frankly with Five Ounces of Pain about his match-up with the formidable striker as well as the lead up to “Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson”. Read ahead as he discussed why “frustration” isn’t the emotion he’s endured since his last outing, what his motivation for Manhoef is regardless of their recent outings, and why he thinks his trilogy with Jason “Mayhem” Miller fell through after originally being rumored for this weekend’s upcoming card.

After recently dedicating 100% of his time to a career in Mixed Martial Arts rather than splitting it with his military commitment Kennedy made it clear where his heart had been after forcibly waiting six months to get back in the cage while healthy and actively seeking an opportunity to continue his growth as a professional fighter.

“I left active duty with Special Forces to fight and I want to fight often. It’s not frustration, its disappointment,” Kennedy replied when asked if he had been angered by the break in competition. “I feel like if I’m not fighting then I want to be deployed with my friends, my buddies. It’s more of like a disappointment…I’m wasting both my time and my brothers/sisters in uniform that I’m not with right now. If I’m not fighting I want to be deployed.”

Then again, just because he’s been in limbo as of late doesn’t mean Kennedy has been sitting on the couch wasting away.

“I’ve been training my butt off,” he continued. “I’ve been looking for fights since November very aggressively. I looked to fight in Japan, I looked to be on a January Strikeforce card. Those all fell through so now I’m just excited I’m fighting and I’m looking to just beat somebody up.”

Kennedy also touched on the topic of whether or not he felt other Strikeforce middleweights might be avoiding, or even protected from, him. Though stopped short of naming names, he did say fans can evaluate the circumstances and come to their own conclusion.

“You guys be the judge and jury for yourself. I’ll tell you straight out the three fights you heard about in the press were not the only three fights I was offered. There were three other fights they offered me and of course I said yes to, so that’s one March card and six opponents I said yes to and you shake the tree and (Manhoef) is who I end up with.”

However, though Manhoef emerged as his adversary at the event after a number of other possibilities, including bouts with grapplers like Miller and rising prospect Luke Rockhold, Kennedy made it clear he’s still had plenty of time to prepare for the Dutchman’s offerings including those of the stand-up variety.

Asked about a recent statement regarding his intention to knock Manhoef out, Kennedy responded, “I’m pretty sure he’s going to try and do the same with me so I’m not going to go out there and go ‘twinkletoes’ with him. I’m gonna look to finish and I want to finish in an exciting, unexpected way.”

The thought of exchanging strikes with an individual with Manhoef’s reputation for introducing opponents to the taste of canvas might be enough to frighten some fighters off – or some managers – but in the case of Kennedy it’s simply another challenge he’s ready to overcome with great success.

“We don’t have to be toe-to-toe for me to put a fist in his face and make him unconscious,” Kennedy elaborated on the intention to send Manhoef reeling. “I’ve put plenty of people away on the ground, I’ve knocked out plenty of people with body shots, with knees to the head…I’ve knocked out people with slams. So when I say I’m gonna knock a guy out don’t be too fast to pass judgment as to where that’s gonna be.”

“He’s dangerous. He poses a threat to everybody that he fights,” he explained while paying respect to Manhoef. “He was really two ticks away from finishing Robbie Lawler who was ranked #5 in the world in his last fight. There’s no way anybody who fights Melvin can look past him. He has twice the number of wins as I do.”

True to form, rather than see an adversary who could be seen as beneath him where career momentum is concerned, Kennedy never turned from an attitude of admiration towards Manhoef despite four first-round losses in the kickboxer’s last six MMA fights.

“I think a lot of people underestimate him. Just because a blueprint has been made on how to beat him doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerous anymore.”

As far as what he stands to gain with a potential win this weekend beyond overcoming the pending adversity, Kennedy also sees the positives outside of victory, saying, “To beat a very experienced, well known on the European side…a fighter that’s fought in bigger and larger venues than I ever have. I’ve gotta get more fans, I’ve gotta get more exciting fights, and I’ve got to get more guys who will come to fight me and I’ve got Melvin.”

In closing, Kennedy offered his thoughts on why the rubber-match between himself and “Mayhem” Miller hadn’t materialized at the March 5 event as rumored despite fans’ interest, the divisional relevance, and both of their past offerings having been highly entertaining.

“I don’t know why that fight didn’t come to fruition on this card. I know Jason on his end was good to go and I’m a ‘yes man’ when it comes to people offering me fights. But that’s only half the game. You still have a network to approve it and you still have a promotion to want it. Maybe they’re looking for that to be more of a headlining fight and it could’ve been overshadowed by two title fights on the March 5 card.”

“So I don’t know what (Strikeforce/Showtime) has planned,” he continued. “My position is to go out there and put on a good show. I think Jason and I would both do that when we get down to fight each other but that’s just not yet.”

Before parting Kennedy also made sure to offer his gratitude towards his supporters and fellow soldiers.

“First and foremost I want to thank the troops. You guys have given me the opportunity to fight; fans, you guys listening to interviews, reading this stuff, and watching fights is what makes it happen so thanks to you guys. My training partners, love you guys. I know it’s been a rough couple months but we’ll go grab a drink after this.”

Kennedy is 12-3 in his career with notable past wins over Miller, Nick Thompson, and Trevor Prangley. He has only won a single fight by decision with a near event split between TKOs/submissions resulting in the bulk of his victories.

Viewers can tune into Showtime on Saturday night at 10:00 PM EST to watch Kennedy’s quest towards the Strikeforce middleweight crown continue against Manhoef at “Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson”. Also set for the event, 135-pound champion Marloes Coenen defends her title against undefeated former Marine Liz Carmouche and Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante will attempt to retain his belt in light heavyweight action against PRIDE/UFC icon Dan Henderson.

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