UFC fighter and former Green Beret Tim Kennedy grew up hunting, shooting and practicing martial arts in rural California. He was building a career as a professional fighter, but shortly after he went pro, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. The next day he was in a recruiter’s office, volunteering to fight terrorism on the side of the U.S. Army.
In the time since, Kennedy has learned to balance two elite fighting careers—one as a National Guardsman, and the other as a contender for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Whether he is fighting terrorists or rivals in the ring, he has never lost sight of the larger battle for the rights of all Americans.
I started doing martial arts when I was in grade school. I did a lot of different ones, from karate, to boxing, to kickboxing, wrestling, jujitsu. Some I liked more than others, but because I was able to do so many different ones, I developed a diversity in my style early on. That early diversity allowed me to excel in Mixed Martial Arts, which is the execution of various fighting styles, all put together to try to win a fight.
I turned pro when I was 20, and fought in a few fights. But the day after the attacks on the World Trade Center, I became one of about 3,000 dudes standing in line at the recruiter’s office. I was mad over 9/11, and was trying to find the fastest way to become a Navy SEAL Airborne Ranger Green Beret Special Forces Sniper—I thought they were the same thing at the time. I wanted to be part of the most elite fighting force on the planet. I wanted to be the tip of the spear.
I was lucky enough to be selected to go to Special Forces training, and in 2004 I earned my Green Beret. After that, I attended several specialty schools, Ranger school and sniper school. Between training, I’ve been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Special Forces guys aren’t the best at any one thing—what they’re good at is being pretty good at a lot of different things, and juggling many things at once. So I was able to continue my fighting career while serving in the military. I was the number-one contender for the Strikeforce Middleweight Title, and now I am in the top ten in the world, fighting for UFC. In 2008, I went from active duty to National Guard and started fighting full-time, but fortunately I am still able to serve my country at the same time. Though all of our rights are precious and valuable, the Second Amendment is the most important to ensuring the continued existence of all our rights.
People think of warriors as guys who kill bad people, but killing bad people isn’t what makes you a warrior. I look at a warrior first and foremost as someone who has something to fight for. And once they believe that the thing they’re fighting for is more valuable than their own life, it means being dedicated to making sure that it’s very difficult to take that life away.
For me, the thing that was worth dying for was American freedom. It was something I swore my life to protect. As the son of a police officer, the brother of a sheriff’s deputy, and a veteran, the Second Amendment has a substantial significance to me. I’m a conservationist and hunter, but it’s more than that. When I enlisted in the Army, I swore an oath to protect the Constitution against foreign and domestic enemies, and the Constitution clearly states that we have a right to keep and bear arms.
I now live in Texas, but I grew up in rural California. I could never live there now. The state’s stance on firearm freedoms was one of the deciding factors in where I relocated. I was willing to put my life on the line to ensure that everyone keeps their rights … unless they live in California. Then I guess my life isn’t valuable enough to ensure everyone enjoys their freedoms.
I joined the NRA because I stand on the side of the Constitution, and they’re the ones leading the fight for the protection of our rights. Though all of our rights are precious and valuable, the Second Amendment is the most important to ensuring the continued existence of all our rights. To me, it’s absolutely priceless.