Tim Kennedy Says He Would Be A “Douche Bag” If He Wore Tapout; Loathes The Business Of MMA
By Joshua Molina
Tim Kennedy is a decorated and beloved military hero with a Bronze Star medal for valor. He served in secret missions in Afghanistan and Iraq as an elite sniper.
But in the world of mixed martial arts, a world dominated by UFC parent company Zuffa LLC, Kennedy is just another guy.
Zuffa made that point loud and clear this week when it created a barrier to entry for Ranger Up, a patriot-themed clothing company that produces apparel bearing various, proud to be American-like slogans for “the crazy SOBs that put their lives on the line every day.” Ranger Up is one of Kennedy’s sponsors but, for the first time since signing the All-American fighter, the company will not be able to showcase its apparel on his body when Kennedy steps into the Strikeforce cage to face Robbie Lawler on Saturday.
Corporate sponsors that want a fighter to wear apparel sporting their logos inside the UFC or Strikeforce cage, must pay Zuffa, a multi-million dollar privately owned company, an undisclosed dollar amount (Sources claim that the annual fee ranges anywhere from $35,000 to $50,000.) in addition to the fees that these sponsors pay fighters.
The policy has prohibited a number of UFC and Strikeforce fighters from earning sponsorship dollars from companies that cannot afford or are not willing to pay Zuffa’s fee that has come to be known within the MMA industry as a “sponsorship tax.”
Kennedy will no longer wear Ranger Up clothing in the cage, now that Zuffa owns Strikeforce, the MMA promotion that Kennedy fights for. Prior to Zuffa’s acquisition of Strikeforce in March, Kennedy had been sporting Ranger Up apparel in the cage.
Kennedy has expressed his disappointment about the situation to multiple MMA media outlets, but he shared with Full Contact Fighter this week his views on the overall state of MMA and his role in an industry that has become increasingly controlled – many say monopolized – by the UFC.
“I loathe the business side of MMA,” Kennedy said. “It goes against everything that MMA is.”
Kennedy is Ranger Up’s biggest star. He appears on the home page of the company’s Web site and is essentially the face of the brand. Now he must choose between aligning himself with sponsors that have been approved by, or paid Zuffa’s sponsorship fee, such as Tapout, or wear plain clothing bearing no sponsor logos.
He chooses plain clothing.
“You can wear Tapout and you can wear Affliction,” Kennedy said. “I felt if I were to wear anyone else (than Ranger Up), I would be a sellout. I’d be a cheapskate and a money-grubbing douche bag. It would be a slap in the face to the all the guys at Ranger Up who have helped me in the past.”
Kennedy will walk into the cage wearing nothing but white shorts. It’s not a statement of disrespect to Zuffa, he insists, but a statement of loyalty to Ranger Up.
“I am doing this out of loyalty to Ranger Up,” Kennedy said. “I am not doing it out of anger (towards) Zuffa.”
Kennedy said he knows what his role is in the world of MMA. Zuffa runs a business and he steps into their cage to fight.
“I think it is a really smart business model,” Kennedy said. “Does it hurt me as an individual fighter? They have 400 people who fight for them. Who am I?”
Kennedy said he earned $50,000 in sponsorship fees in his last fight against Melvin Manhoef on March 5, the last event that Strikeforce produced under its former ownership.
“Now I will have zero coming in,” Kennedy said. “Everything I wore last time, I won’t wear this time.”
Kennedy said he hopes Zuffa will at least allow him to wear National Guard apparel because “I am in the National Guard.” Not even that is certain, though.
Kennedy needs and wants to focus on his fight with Lawler. A win might put Kennedy back in line for a middleweight championship title shot.
“I am a fighter,” Kennedy said. “At the end of day I am wearing shorts, a mouthpiece and a cup. That’s what I do. My job is to fight. I will deal with this later.”