There will be no shortage of high-level experience in the cage when Jeremy Kennedy and Matt Bessette meet.
Canada’s Kennedy (15-2) will make his Bellator debut Thursday night when he takes on the United States’ Bessette (24-9) in a featherweight bout at Bellator 253 in Uncasville, CT.
Kennedy, 28, is part of the recent Canadian signing spree Bellator has been on over the past year, which also includes Josh Hill, Lance Gibson Jr., and Steve Mac Donald, and he said he’s happy to be one of the few fighters representing the Canadian flag in the promotion.
“I feel like I’m carrying a bit of the Canadian pride with me because there’s only a few of us. I want to be a Canadian champion in Bellator, and I think it’s my time to really rep that Canadian flag,” said Kennedy in an interview with MMA Empire.
“I’m glad they’re doing it because it’s a huge market in Canada, and Bellator’s one of the top promotions, and seeing them give all the other Canadians a chance is just going to make Canadian MMA grow, regardless.”
Up until a recent lifestyle change, Bessette, 35, was training and fighting full-time, with his fight purses being his primary source of income.
Since then, Bessette said he made the decision to get a full-time job, and continue training on the side. He said now having that reliable source of income has been a big weight off his shoulders, and has put him in a strong place mentally.
“For eight years, from 2011 to 2019, I was just fighting. Although you think you can put more time into your training and get better, yes, but at the same time it weighs on you. When you have a family, it definitely weighs on you because you really have to make that money. If you’re not fighting, you’re not making money,” said Bessette in an interview with MMA Empire.
“Now that I have this full-time job, I’m able to make my own training schedule around it. I’m still getting tons of training, but now I have a steady pay cheque. That kind of weight is off my shoulders, and it feels so good.”
Kennedy confident in his strengths
Kennedy has shared the cage with no shortage of tough opponents so far in his career, including Daniel Pineda, Luis Rafael Laurentino, Marat Magomedov, and current UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.
And while Bessette is set to be another tough challenge to add to the list, Kennedy said he believes it’s a great matchup for him.
“He’s a gamer, he’s durable, he throws, he’s got a lot of volume, but I think his weaknesses play right into my strengths,” said Kennedy.
“I think I’m going to be able to exploit him, and win all the little in-betweens. I just think I’m overall the better athlete, better conditioned, younger, and more physical than him. I think I beat him everywhere.”
With the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix currently in progress, the opportunity for a title shot may still be a year or more away for Kennedy.
But regardless of if and when he has the chance to fight for Bellator gold, Kennedy said there’s no shortage of intriguing matchups for him within the division along the way.
“With the tournament still going on now and me coming into the mix, it’s a pretty good landscape. It’s really ordering itself out with all these fights, and I’m just excited to get this fight in with Bessette, and see what happens in the quarterfinal and semifinal matchups,” said Kennedy.
“There’s going to be a lot of options for me here coming up, and I think I matchup well with all of these guys.”
This will be Kennedy’s first fight since his PFL bout with Pineda in Oct. 2019, which means it will be his first time competing in the no-crowd atmosphere that has become the norm in 2020.
After having watched numerous fights in the “COVID era,” Kennedy said he was hoping he’d have the opportunity to fight in the unique atmosphere 2020 has brought on.
“I want to experience this; I want to look back on the coronavirus time of no crowds and be able to experience it, the COVID testing upon arrival and the quarantining on fight week with my team,” said Kennedy.
“He has to do the exact same thing, so it’s not like I’m putting myself at a disadvantage by being able to experience this. I’m just excited for it.”
Bessette looking to start a new run
Following an 0-2 stint in the UFC, plus a no contest ruling in his DWCS appearance in 2017, Bessette has rebounded nicely with two straight wins under the CES MMA banner, including capturing the CES MMA lightweight title his last time out.
Although his UFC run didn’t go his way, Bessette said he felt good mentally and physically during his tenure, and it really just boiled down to bad fortune.
“I don’t want it to sound like I’m making excuses, but those three fights I had with the UFC and Contender Series were just really bad f**king timing. People say s**t happens, and it does,” said Bessette.
“My Contender Series fight, I broke my thumb the very first punch I threw, and couldn’t use my right hand for the remainder of the fight. The second fight I took on six days notice, cut 20 pounds in five days, and I gassed after two rounds, which is why I was getting taken down repeatedly in the third round. The last fight I had a career-ending injury that I still fought on. It has since gone away, fixed itself, and I’m in a much better spot now.”
This will be Bessette’s tenth appearance inside the Bellator cage, having fought on and off from the promotion from 2012 to 2016.
Although this fight with Kennedy is on a one-fight contract, due to currently being signed to a multi-fight deal with CES MMA, Bessette said he would love another shot with Bellator in the long term, if it made sense for his career.
“As long as the numbers add up and I’m promised fights in a certain amount of time, I would certainly love that,” said Bessette.
“I’ve always had a real good relationship with Bellator, even before Rich and Scott came on. A lot of the people that worked for Bellator back then still work for them now.”
Throughout his career, Bessette has been no stranger to finishing fights, with 16 of his 24 victories coming before the final bell.
With Kennedy holding just two losses on his record, Bessette said he knows it’s going to be tough to finish him, but that still remains the goal on Thursday night.
“It’s going to be hard to finish him. It’s hard to finish me, and it’s hard to finish him. But that’s who I am, I go for the finish. I only have 15 minutes to do it, so I have to figure it out in 15 minutes,” said Bessette.
“I’m going to have the cardio to go 25 minutes, let alone 15 minutes, so if it goes to a decision, it goes to a decision. But that’s not what I’m trying to do, that’s never what I’m trying to do.”
“I’d like to thank my sponsors (Oxygen Yoga Langley, Oxygen Yoga Renfrew, Greens and Protein, New Edge Alliance).” Follow Kennedy on social media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM
“I really want to thank my wife and my mother for helping me through this fight camp. I also want to thank the training partners I had for this fight who put in the overtime with me.” FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM