Fighter / SF Soldier Tim Kennedy Retires

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 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.

18 thoughts on “Fighter / SF Soldier Tim Kennedy Retires

    1. Hognose Post author

      I remember a 37 year old Major in my Ranger School class (1-83, graduation 9 Dec 82). Poor guy lasted a couple of days, but he was an ASA major (sigint weenie). There was an NCO older than that by a year or two, but he was an 82nd Airborne, infantry company first sergeant. He wasn’t in my squad or platoon though, but he finished — hard as woodpecker lips.

      After the major was gone I was the oldest in my squad and I felt every year. All 24 of ’em. The rest of the squad were fresh 2LTs of 21-22 and Ranger battboys who needed the school to make Corporal, at 19.

      Edited for clarity.

      1. MD

        I knew Ranger School was a young man’s game, but i didn’t realize how just how much it favors youth.

    2. jakew7

      Good article.
      Sure Tim will do well… good on him.

      Know also that one Dick Smoot, 67, (RIP from motorcycle last year), at 49, graduated the SF Combat Diver’s Course.
      Took several years…failing several times…taking too long to get a slot for readmission and then had to retake prescuba class again. A lot of work.
      There are no easy classes at this school….ever.
      Fellow went to the pool 3 times a week after work, for hard swim distance workout. Ran a shitload.

      He wouldn’t be denied.
      Pleased to have known him.

      1. Hognose Post author

        Man, Combat Diver is the hardest course in SF, physically, and always has been. And to get nailed by some dozy ass in a pickup… bummer.

  1. Trone Abeetin

    Getting old sucks, not a thing we can do about it. But, you can exit with princely grace. He did so and as a much older man I hope I can face the final exit with such grace.

    1. LSWCHP

      Getting old sucks, and it sure ain’t for pussies. On the other hand, it beats the hell out of the alternative!

      I treasure every day on the right side of the grass because I know that my time will come soon enough.

  2. Tom Stone

    The colonel’s name was Sanders.
    As in “Bucket of chicken”.
    Congratulations to Tim on knowing when to hang it up, a class act.

  3. MD

    I’ve been following Tim on facebook for several months. In an age of Instagram celebrities and spoiled sports stars, he really is a class act.

  4. James F.

    In some jobs you get “old” fast–“Pappy” Shelton and “Pappy” Boyington were 32 and 31 respectively when they got called that.

    At 31, Boyington had ten years on most Naval Aviators, and the same was probably true of Shelton, a Korean War veteran who joined SF at 32.

    The young fellows in Boyington’s squadron started by calling him “Gramps” before they settled on “Pappy”.

  5. Gray

    I remember right before I enlisted (at 17), that some “old guy” in our neighborhood received a draft notice, and IIRC he was mid-30’s.

    1. Kirk

      Special skills can do that…

      I got to be the bearer of bad news to a guy who was a victim of the ol’ “up or out, and by the way, we ain’t promoting in your MOS…” thing. He was a water purification specialist, had been on the ROWPU program, hit his RCP and gotten out to work for Culligan at medium-big bucks. Came Desert Storm, some bright light in the water purification community remembers him, and bang, zoom, orders are cut taking him back on active duty. They wanted his ass badly enough that they had a recruiter (me) drop him his orders at his house like some kind of process server. I’m still not quite sure what the hell was going on with that shit, because he was well past his MSO, and swore (really profusely, I might add) that he wasn’t in the IRR, either. Something highly irregular was going on with that whole thing, and I still don’t understand what the hell was going on, because from where I was sitting, there was no legal way for the Army to do what I observed what it did.

        1. Kirk

          Oh, they’ll get you if they want you.

          I’ve told that story to about a dozen different people, over the years, and none of them believe me. But, it happened, and I’m still not sure about how it was done. All I know is I was directed to pick up a set of orders they had dropped off at the office, and take them out to his address, and personally deliver the sealed envelope to him.

          Cue profanity, and a “WTF?” from both of us. He’d enlisted, hit his RCP for SGT, and then gotten out when he never made the cutoff score for his MOS. His MSO was more than complete, he’d avoided the National Guard/Reserve thing, and there was still some way they had of pulling his ass back on active duty, the nature of which was utterly opaque to me, because even my boss didn’t get it. Her queries up the chain just got us back a “Needs of the Army…” boilerplate, and that was it.

          I honestly didn’t think they could do that. And, I still don’t get what the hell USAREC was doing involved in it, other than that we were the closest military organization to where he lived, and we were kinda-sorta doing a favor for someone out at Fort Sheridan, where those orders actually originated.

          Of course, a lot of really weird shit was going on during the ramp-up to Desert Storm. That was probably the strangest, though…

  6. Quill_&_Blade

    I always had the same diet as other guys, and always had to push my way through everything. Didn’t realize how much it hindered my motivation. Started paying close attention to it, have been regular at weight lifting; and ironically, at 56 feel better than ever before. Not that I’m the pinnacle of vitality, maybe it helps that I regard getting old as something I don’t have time for. Got a late start by marrying at 32, so unfortunately, I’m obliged to play a younger man’s game.

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