While a big opportunity to fight perennial middleweight contender Vitor Belfort never materialized, Strikeforce import Tim Kennedy has already moved on and has some ideas for his next opponent.
"After fighting a Strikeforce guy, I wanted to fight a long-standing UFC guy," Kennedy told Bleacher Report. Kennedy won his Octagon debut against Roger Gracie at UFC 162 earlier this month.
"I'd love to fight anybody with a rich history within the sport that's been a fighter for a long time," Kennedy said. "To get matched up with Wanderlei Silva, an iconic hero of mine, that's the kind of fight I want."
The PRIDE legend has won three of his past five bouts, most recently scoring a brutal knockout over a friend of Kennedy's in Brian Stann, and has recently announced he would like to get back into the middleweight title picture (MMA Fighting).
Therefore, a matchup with Kennedy may not be such a bad idea.
The Texas-based fighter also made a bold proclamation about the UFC's 185-pound division as a whole:
"I think I can beat everybody in the middleweight division. If I didn’t, I wouldn't be here (in the UFC). I'd be doing something else."
Just because he's gotten over the fact that "The Phenom" ultimately turned down a fight with him in Brazil this fall, that doesn't mean his strong feelings on fighters who use testosterone replacement therapy have changed.
"I wasn’t thrilled about fighting Vitor in Brazil; I’ve always been vocal about being against TRT ... I had mixed feelings about fighting him in Brazil … it’s his legacy. He can do what he wants. But I think it demeans the sport when he uses performance-enhancing drugs."
Kennedy, who was vocal that he has never used PEDs and never will, asked the UFC if they could sanction Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) testing for the Belfort matchup.
He was told the call has to be made by each individual athletic commission, so ultimately Kennedy decided, "I'd prefer to fight him in the United States, but I was going to fight him regardless."
A United States Army Sergeant First Class, Kennedy said that he understands Belfort's position that he has already proven his No. 1 contender status at middleweight, therefore he isn't fighting at 185 pounds unless its for the belt (via MMA Junkie).
That didn't stop him from remaining a bit critical of the Brazilian knockout artist.
"I think the fans dictate who deserves it, and there isn’t an overwhelming cry that Vitor is the guy (that needs to be) fighting for the championship next," Kennedy said.
"Personally, I think he’s earned it. (UFC President) Dana White urges guys to put on exciting performances and score impressive finishes, and Vitor has certainly done that. However, the fact they (his fights) didn’t take place in the U.S., in my opinion, cheapens the wins."
While dozens of professional mixed martial artists have gotten TRT therapeutic usage exemptions from various athletic commissions across the globe in recent years, Belfort has earned the most criticism from fans and fighters alike due to his muscular physique and uncanny finishing ability at 36 years old.
Belfort has won four of his last five fights, but as Kennedy noted, he hasn't fought on American soil since knocking out Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 133 in August 2011. That bout took place in Philadelphia, Pa.
Since then, Belfort's subsequent four bouts have taken place in either Brazil or Canada, though White insists that he isn't "hiding" Belfort from American athletic commissions (via MMA Fighting).
To the contrary, the UFC's head honcho says Belfort has been fighting in Brazil because he is big draw in his home country.
With all that in mind, Kennedy still hopes he can can fight Belfort somewhere down the line, noting that the only game plan for a fighter of his caliber is to "get in his face and stay there."
Given Kennedy's clear-cut stance on PEDs in MMA, it only made sense to also ask him what his feelings are about the Biogenesis scandal.
While the Miami-based medical lab was first thought to provide PEDs strictly to athletes involved with Major League Baseball, ESPN has since revealed that the clinic had clients from across the sports world, including MMA fighters.
Any information beyond that is purely speculative at this point, but should any professional fighters be named, Kennedy would like to see a heavy-handed approach in disciplining those individuals.
He just isn't convinced that any athletic commission will take a stand on the matter.
"(PEDs) nearly destroyed baseball in the late '90s with (Mark) Maguire and (Sammy) Sosa. Biogenesis could really, really hurt the sport (of MMA)," Kennedy said.
"I know guys are going to be named. It's gonna suck, but what’s going to happen? Is a state athletic commission going to bar them from fighting? I really doubt it. We aren’t randomly drug tested in between fights. What’s the punishment going to be? Nothing, which kind of stinks."
In an ideal world, Kennedy said that should any fighters be named in the scandal, they should never be allowed to have a TRT therapeutic usage exemption, face a monetary fine, be issued a suspension and be subject to random drug testing for a predetermined amount of time.
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All quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report unless otherwise noted.