From the ring, that is. He’s still in as a part-time soldier, and there’s a story in that. Tim was on active duty in Special Forces when he first began to fight in mixed martial arts competitions. The command took no notice.
Then, he began to win. A lot. The command discovered that one of their warriors was actually one of the world’s top fighters. They should have celebrated their good fortune and wrung a PR and recruiting windfall out of it. (What Would The SEALs Do?) But no, that’s not what they did.
They ordered him to quit.
Instead, he quit active duty, continuing to serve in the National Guard, and kept fighting. A recent deployment and the associated pre- and post-deployment activities kept him out of the ring for a couple of years, and when he went back in the ring, he lost… and he knew that this was it.
Every athlete knows that there will be a time to hang up the gloves (or whatever). Some receive that signal when it comes in, embracing a graceful end to a young person’s career. Some don’t, and become that guy, hanging around trying to capture the feeling of ever-more-distant glory. Tim wasn’t going to be that guy.
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. He is a friend I didn’t deserve and guy that stood with me from the beginning. Fighting is a lonely thing. You train with your team. You bleed with them. You trust your coaches but ultimately you are in the cage alone. This wasn’t our first time in this situation and thankful I had someone by my side. We had 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.
Do Read The Whole Thing™ at Tim Kennedy’s Facebook page. He is, it turns out, a gifted writer, and the whole thing is worth reading.
We at WeaponsMan.com wish Tim Kennedy all the best in his future endeavors. He leaves like he entered, and like he fought: with heart, class and sportsmanship.
He may never step into the ring again, but his name lives for evermore.
That colonel that demanded that he quit UFC, what was his name? Dunno. We forgot.