After a prolonged period of success at featherweight, it only seemed natural for Jeremy Kennedy to one day receive a call to compete under the UFC banner. The 24-year-old has been training extensively since his early teens cleanly upholding an unblemished professional record of 8-0. But when the call finally came, months after successfully defending his Battlefield League 145-pound title for the first time and in light of the UFC’s travels to Western Canada, Kennedy was expected to realize his dream on a different route than planned.
“They had no room at 145,” Kennedy recalled. “Sean Shelby said ‘you’re on the radar but there’s really no room. He kept saying, ‘keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be here but the wait time could be up to a year.’ And I just felt that was way too long.”
Shortly after that conversation, the youngster and his team were informed of a debut spot, but in the lightweight division. A division praised for its competitiveness and numerous amount of talent. But Kennedy understood that a coveted opportunity doesn’t always arrive flawlessly.
Taking it as it was, Kennedy was set to make his debut against Team Alpha Male veteran Josh Emmett who made his UFC debut in the Netherlands on less than two weeks’ notice. Even in this circumstance, Kennedy relished at the prospect of finally realizing his dream. Even if it was at a different weight class.
“I said I can handle that,” Kennedy said. “It just means I don’t have to cut as much and I can train on a full stomach. And honestly it’s made a huge difference to me energy wise…Every training session has been right on the money because I am so energized. It has also been good for recovery and my relaxation. I do think it was a good move and I am not too worried about it.”
The debutant’s uplifting ability to seize the opportunity that has come his way just as it is, is a skill he believe can carry him through on his debut against Alex Ricci, another fellow Canadian, who replaces the injured Emmett. Ricci is also another competitor whose regional successes have allowed him the interested eye of the UFC for years now. When the Toronto fighter received the call to replace Emmett just over a week before fight night, Ricci was in the midst of preparing for a title fight against Shooto champion Koshi Matumoto in Japan. So in this sense, all that’s left for these two is a recipe for creativity, explosiveness and two men likely to shine on their long awaited debuts. A concept Kennedy has not ignored.
“We’re both in the same boat. It’s not like he will have nearly enough time to make any major adjustments,” said Kennedy. “This is just what we are going to do. We are going to be fighting each other now. We can look at any tape we want, but there’s no way to train for this now. The work that has been put in has been put in.”
After a period of adolescence where dietary discipline and consistent training motivations were a struggle, at 24-years of age Kennedy’s mindset seems grounded. The relaxation gained from a tranquil weight cut, his maintenance of calmness through the annoyance of a changed opponent and above it all, the rise to elite competition tells us this. Now all that’s left for Kennedy is to experience the moment in Vancouver.
“Apart of my visualization has been thinking about Bruce Buffer announcing me, honestly!” said Kennedy. “And my lack of weight cutting means I get to experience [the entirety of the fight] more now, not having to worry about my weight so much is huge. I can just take it all in better.”