Jeremy Kennedy (13-1) feels like he is entering his prime right now.
The former UFC featherweight is scheduled to face Bellator veteran Alexandre Bezerra on May 23 in the regular season of the Professional Fighters League (PFL).
Formerly known as the World Series of Fighting, PFL debuted its inaugural season on June 7, 2018. Seventy-two fighters across six weight classes took part in last years regular season, with the top eight in each respective weight class earning a spot in the playoffs. On December 31, six new champions were crowned, each taking home the cash prize of one million dollars.
This tournament-style format was built off the foundation of old school MMA promotions like Pride and the early days of the UFC. These tournaments were extremely popular among fans of the sport and brought us classic bouts such as Mirko Cro Cop vs. Wanderlei Silva. Fast forward to the present day and tournaments are a rare sight in the world of mixed martial arts, however, the Professional Fighters League continue to make it work.
Despite only being 26-years-old, Jeremy Kennedy has experience that many athletes his age can only dream of. “JBC” has competed for both the UFC and Brave CF, and on May 23, he can add PFL to that list.
He spoke to John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock about his upcoming fight, his experience being in the UFC and how he is approaching the year ahead.
Competing for PFL
Many fans believe that the UFC is the “be all and end all,” meaning that if you are not fighting for them, you are not successful. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as other promotions such as ONE Championship and KSW are slowly but surely on the rise. Some of these promotions offer more money than the UFC is willing to give, which makes all the difference.
“The UFC is not the be all and end all. It’s good, it’s great, it’s a top organization, but having been there and now having these offers from ONE Championship and PFL, and seeing all these different contracts and money bounced – it’s whatever suits you best.”
Jeremy Kennedy is a fighter who loves to stay active. The Canadian competed twice for Brave in 2018, picking up two knockout wins; his incredible one-punch knockout over Marat Magomedov in December highlights his ability to finish a fight. He opened up about his decision to sign with the PFL over re-signing with the middle eastern organization.
“I’m ready to start fighting closer to home, and those trips to Saudi Arabia and Morocco [made it] hard for how busy I want to stay.”
“PFL is kind of the perfect fit for me. It’s close to home and it’s active – I want to stay active. And that’s why I signed with Brave in the beginning, it was because of how active they were willing to keep me, [unlike] a lot of these other organizations that will shelf you.”
He spoke about his first opponent, Alexandre Bezerra, and why he thinks he will walk away with the victory.
“He’s got heavy hands, he’s aggressive, [and] he’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu. He’s got good submissions but overall putting it all together that’s where his holes are. My wrestling is going to be better. I am the bigger, taller athlete and the longer guy on the feet. I think I’ll have better conditioning.”
Reflecting on UFC career and fighting Alex Volkanovski
The 26-year-old had a short but successful UFC career, compiling a record of 3-1. His only career loss came at the hands of #4 ranked featherweight Alexander Volkanovski in early 2018, which happened to be his last fight for the promotion. He spoke about his time in the UFC and what he learned from his only loss.
“The UFC was great, but I was young. I was a kid there and I had a lot of growing up to do which I did in the UFC, which a lot of guys get done before they get there. If I were in the UFC now, I think I would have a whole different career.”
“I learned a lot from fighting Alex [Volkanovski]. I would love to be able to run that one back because – I keep coming back to this – but mentally I had some blocks that I had to get through. Physically I was in the best shape of my life for that fight but I just had a lot of different things mentally going on, so I would like to test my skills against him [again] just seeing how well he’s done since then.”
He gave his prediction on Volkanovski’s upcoming fight with legend Jose Aldo in May.
“Right now with just the headlines alone, I would take Volkanovski. But prime, in shape and [if] everything goes smoothly for a three-round fight, I’ll probably take Aldo. It all depends,” said the featherweight,
“There are so many things that go into it behind the scenes that we don’t see. But for me, if I was a betting man, I’d be putting my money down on Volkanovski.”
The PFL is yet again offering one million dollars to the six men that stand victorious at the end of the season. This cash prize, along with a championship belt, was enough to convince many athletes to sign along the dotted line. The roster for this season has recently been announced, and it features some of the most under-appreciated talents in all of mixed martial arts.
Kennedy is ready to compete against some of the best in the world and feels as if he is reaching his prime physically and mentally.
“I feel like I’m just reaching my prime. Not necessarily physically but mentally as well, which is a huge thing.”
He went on to discuss how tough the year ahead is going to be, saying “this season is definitely the toughest tournament in all of combat sports now with the guys [competing]. Everyone’s checks cleared, and they saw how smoothly it ran [last year]. It just made it more pleasing for everybody, all the top level guys. So now you look at this roster of 12 featherweights and you stack that up against any other 12 featherweights that are fighting in a tournament and you won’t find it. It’s going to be a tough, grind [of a] year for everybody.”
“The winner of this is going to walk away with not only $1 million and the belt, but some serious recognition of being one of the top featherweights in the world.”
Student of the game
In the modern age of combat, it is common practice for an athlete to study their opposition in order to gain a competitive advantage. Watching your opponent compete allows you to assess their strengths, weaknesses and always be one step ahead. Studying your adversary can make the difference between a victory and a defeat.
“I’m a nerd when it comes to that, I love studying the game and studying my division. It’s funny [because] a lot of these guys I’ve known long before them getting announced in this tournament.”
The former UFC featherweight has been watching his fellow 145-pound fighters for years and spoke about some of the competition he faces.
“Andre Harrison has been on my radar forever. I think everyone has been aware of him because he’s been fighting on the regional scenes for so long.”
“Lance Palmer (current champion) is my training partner, he’s my guy, I love that guy. He’s a tough, top guy.”
If he is successful, Kennedy will have to fight five times this year in order to progress and win the featherweight tournament. Due to this the Canadian expects no layoffs, and will always be in shape to compete.
“I’m always in training camp and that’s just the way I’m gonna approach this whole year – constantly watch what I eat, keeping my weight down, [and] constantly being in the gym.”
“It’s going to be a long grind and it’s just how you approach these fights. I don’t think you can fight conservatively because that will show with the points system”.
Standing at 6-foot-2 and boasting a professional record of 13-1, Jeremy Kennedy is undoubtedly a favorite within the entire competition. He is entering his physical and mental prime, something that’ll give him an advantage when facing older competitors in the promotion.
Watch out for Jeremy Kennedy in this season of Professional Fighters League.
Steven is a Mixed Martial Arts journalist and analyst from the United Kingdom.