“I watched the UFC be the first sport back and I was stoked as a fight fan just to be a part of that, but I wanted to be in there, too,” he laughed. “While all the other sports are sidelined, we’re in there doing our thing with no crowd and on ESPN when there’s nothing else going on. It’s a great stage to showcase my skills. And the craziness makes me want to fight even more.”
That craziness is the COVID-19 pandemic that put all major sports on pause until the UFC returned on May 9. And even though he wasn’t going to get a couple months to train for a bout with Louis Smolka this Saturday in Las Vegas, the 29-year-old bantamweight prospect has no issues with that at all.
“I feel like a 10 to 12-week camp kinda wears on me mentally, so I like to short notice it,” he said. “Obviously, I came in with the debut like that and it’s my world. I feel like I’m always ready to fight, I know when I’m gonna perform well, and that’s when that Octagon door gets closed. It’s some crazy times, but I think this is a good step. The UFC getting back on, that was great to getting back to normal, and now I get to be a part of it as well, so I’m super stoked about that.”
Kenney’s enthusiasm is matched only by that of his opponent, with Hawaii’s Smolka also having no problem with a short training camp conducted in the midst of a pandemic. The way he sees it, fighters fight, and when those fighters are all in the same boat, it’s a level playing field that should result in a memorable scrap.
“He’s got a good style and I’ve watched him for a long time,” Kenney said of Smolka. “Chris (Cariaso), one of my coaches, fought him six years ago. That was when Louis was undefeated and up and coming. So he’s a guy I’ve known about for a long time. I think I was an amateur at that point, about to turn pro when that fight went down. But I’ve got nothing bad to say about him and it’s nothing personal; it’s all business and I’m sure he feels the same way.”