If you were to create the perfect Soldier, it might start with the warrior’s spirit, world-class athleticism, and the ability to hit a bulls-eye from half a mile away. But perfection is an unreal goal, isn’t it?
Don’t tell that to Army National Guard Staff Sergeant (SSG) Tim Kennedy.
Warrior’s spirit? Check. SSG Kennedy is a Ranger Qualified Green Beret and decorated combat veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star for valor under fire.
World class athlete? Check. With an impressive 14-4 professional mixed martial arts record (MMA), SSG Kennedy is the 16th ranked middleweight in the MMA Combined Rankings. That’s number 16 in the world. The whole world.
Straight shooter? Check. SSG Kennedy is a Special Forces Sniper and can also put four shots into a one-inch grouping with an assault rifle while on the move.
SSG Kennedy is also a husband and a father. He has been featured on multiple television programs. He works out two or three times a day (a DAY!).
And to relax? Does he crack open a cold one and watch the game? No. He cooks.
Translation: He is one tough, motivated, and dedicated guy, but there’s one thing not even SSG Kennedy can do: twist the space-time continuum.
“I love to fight, I love to shoot, and I love being a Green Beret,” SSG Kennedy said. “But I didn’t have time to do it all.”
That could easily be the understatement of the century. When he walked into an Army recruiting office in 2004 and signed up to pursue membership in the elite Green Berets, he was already a professional MMA fighter on his way up the charts with a 5-1 record.
Though he did manage to continue his fighting career while also being an active duty Soldier, becoming a Green Beret, especially one as accomplished as SSG Kennedy, was no simple matter. It required 100 percent commitment from Basic Combat Training through multiple overseas deployments. In between were Advanced Individual Training, Special Forces Assessment and Selection, Special Forces Qualifying Course, Airborne and Ranger training, and Special Forces Sniper School.
You can see how this might cause some schedule conflicts with a professional sports career. In fact, in 2004, 2005, and 2008, SSG Kennedy had no professional bouts, though he did win the Army-wide Combatives tournament in the Light-Heavyweight division each year from 2005 to 2007.
“I was always fighting for time,” he said. “There was never enough time to train, to fight, and to be a Soldier. After I enlisted, I just didn’t have time to fight as much as I wanted to.”
But there was no way he was giving up the uniform.
“Being in a Special Forces unit is so much more important than yourself,” SSG Kennedy said. “It’s eye-opening and humbling. Whatever you’re doing is irrelevant unless you’re doing it for the team. It’s about self-sacrifice and selfless service. If you can give yourself over to that, you’ll experience some of the most marvelous and spectacular things.”
After five years on active duty, SSG Kennedy found a solution in the Texas Army National Guard, which allowed him the time to become a full-time MMA fighter while continuing his Special Forces career.
“The Guard was absolutely the best option for me to do the two things I love: to fight and continue being a Soldier,” SSG Kennedy said. “It was a dream come true.”
On July 14, 2012, SSG Kennedy fought a tough bout in Portland for the Strikeforce middleweight belt. He lost a close decision, but he’s not willing to concede defeat so easily.
“The characteristics it takes to be a successful Soldier are the same characteristics required to be a successful fighter. They complement each other. It’s all about hard work, discipline, and personal sacrifice.”
In short, Soldiers and fighters never give up.
“My story is only half a story so far,” SSG Kennedy said. “I still have more things I have to do. I want to be ranked number 1. I’ve been close a couple times, but I haven’t made it yet.”
Operative term: yet.