Jeremy Kennedy and Alexander Volkanovski will battle after all.
The two rising stars in the featherweight division were scheduled to fight at UFC Fight Night 121 in November last year, but a severe neck injury kept Kennedy (11-0) away from the cage.
“It was the first time I have experienced something like that. It felt like electrocution. I would get a shooting pain down my arm every time I would try and grapple. I could hit pads and do everything else, but certain movements like twerking my head in grappling would send a shock down my arm and I couldn’t train through.”
Kennedy explained that he was ‘gutted’ to withdraw from the fight with Volkanovski in November. However, there’s an element of positivity to the rescheduled battle at UFC 221 in Perth, Australia, considering that Volkanovski’s stock has risen since that day.
I was on the phone with Sean Shelby as soon as Alex fought and he won and said let’s reset this fight. Let’s have the same fight, same opponent, in Australia. And it’s a bigger fight now, he has another win and his stock has risen. We’re both 3-0 in the UFC.
Despite it being the second time that he has prepared for Volkanovski, Kennedy explains that he is not taking any shortcuts. In fact, Kennedy has invested significantly into his training camp. The reason? Like Volkanovski, Kennedy finds himself in the group of fighters that are lingering just outside of the UFC’s featherweight rankings. A dominant win by either of these fighters would likely be enough to shoot them into the top #15. As such, Kennedy is making sure that his preparation is faultless.
“I know every fighter says this is the best camp, but I can actually say that this is. It’s going to be the best me turning up. I’ve taken no shortcuts. I’ve invested a lot of money into this camp. I went to Vegas, I flew in training partners that were specific to simulate Alex. I haven’t taken any shortcuts and that’s the biggest thing.
Kennedy is seemingly extra determined after his most recent appearance inside the cage. At UFC on FOX 25, Kennedy easily controlled Kyle Bochniak for the first two rounds of their fight, but fatigued in the last round and allowed Bochniak to gain some momentum. Although he won the contest 30-27, 30-27, 29-28, the glimmer of hope for his opponent is something that has inspired him to improve his preparation in the lead-up to the fight.
“I have the conditioning to be able to do it all, but I got a little flat in the third there and it pisses me off. Conditioning is my job, I was conditioned going into it, but I had a bad weight cut due to me being lazy and that’s not okay.”
Endurance had never been a problem for Kennedy inside the cage before UFC on FOX 25. He outlasted Alex Ricci in a fast-paced bout in his UFC debut and then finished strong in the last round against Rony Jason. The Bochniak bout was an outlier because the two engaged in a non-stop grappling contest just seconds after the bout commenced. But rather than the conditioning being an issue, Kennedy clarified that it was primarily a result of a ‘lazy’ weight cut.
I wasn’t disciplined in the food aspect of that fight, in the week leading up. I want to go back to that [Rony] Jason style weight cut. The weight flew off and I felt amazing on the rehydration and blew back up, I felt great.
War of attrition
The matchup between Kennedy and Volkanovski is somewhat of an unusual one from the UFC.
Typically, the organization will pit rising stars such as Kennedy and Volkanovski against experienced veterans of the sport. Instead, these two fighters who have overwhelmed each of their three opponents in the UFC will now collide.
Kennedy explains his excitement for the contest as more of a curiosity, as the 25-year-old is yet to be thrown into deep waters.
“I’ve never really been tested. Every time I get my hands on these guys, I can just ragdoll them. Alex does the same thing, so it makes me curious myself. It makes me push even harder because I know it’s going to be a war of attrition. My conditioning is through the roof, I’m making sure my weight is on point so I don’t have a bad weight cut.”
Jeremy Kennedy vs. Alexander Volkanovski is a scheduled preliminary bout at UFC 221 in Perth, Australia, on Saturday, February 10.