Whether in the cage or wearing a uniform, Kennedy always prepared to Ranger Up
QUEBEC CITY, Que. - A former Green Beret, UFC middleweight Tim Kennedy continues to serve his country in the Army National Guard.
At a public workout Sunday in advance of his main event matchup Wednesday night with England's Michael Bisping, the 34-year-old Texan kept the military theme alive with camo shorts complete with stars down the side.
And away from the cage, it's more of the same via the Ranger Up clothing line.
"We make shirts for the military and the patriotic Americans who love the men and women of the Armed Forces," says the company website. "The guys that own this company either were or are still in the military."
A co-owner along with his wife, Kennedy is one of them.
Launched in June 2006, Ranger Up started sponsoring Kennedy the fighter in January 2007. He eventually bought into the North Carolina-based company.
The Ranger Up line features T-shirts, polo shirts, hoodies, hats and jeans for men and women. Anyone can buy the gear but the company targets the military, police, fire departments and EMS — "people that serve," says founder Nick Palmisciano.
"Forty per cent of our customers have never served in any capacity," he added.
"It's more like a mindset," says Kennedy, who lives in Austin. "Kind of like patriotic, helpful, contributing-member-of-society-type."
"Not just American. We sell a ton to Canada, a ton to the U.K, a ton to Australia and a ton to New Zealand" said Palmisciano, who was a Ranger-qualified infantry officer.
The name is akin to dig deep or man up. No matter how hard it gets, don't quit.
"When you're in Ranger School it sucks," said Kennedy, a Ranger-qualified Green Beret. "You're not eating, you're not sleeping. You're marching miles — for months at a time. it's horrible.
"Your enduring motivation is if you want your Ranger tab, you've got to Ranger up. You've got to dig deep, you've got to work hard."
Kennedy (17-4) did just that in his last fight when, despite a torn quadricep suffered in training, he knocked out Rafael Natal in the main event of a UFC Fight for the Troops card at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
He says he would have pulled out of any other fight.
"I remember hobbling out to the cage and hopping up on one leg to get into the cage ... I knew all I had to do was reach him. I just had to reach his chin and I had to get my hands on him. But getting there when you lack the mobility of a leg was concerning. I was anxious."
He did not let his audience down, stopping Natal in four minutes 40 seconds.
Kennedy spent eight years on active duty and had multiple combat deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other regions. He was awarded the Bronze Star for valour under fire.
He is in his third year in the National Guard, a Special Forces weapon staff sergeant who teaches hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship
Ranger Up T-shirts do no pull punches. A T-shirt that says "I'm comfortable with violence" is not for everyone but probably makes sense to a veteran.
Another says "I may look calm but in my head I've killed you three times."
Other shirt slogans are "Free men do not ask permission to bear arms," "I will never apologize for being American," and "I wanted to serve, I volunteered to serve, I knew what I was doing."
Ranger Up does "a couple of million dollars" in retail outlets annually but the majority of sales come via its website. All its products are American-designed and -made.
The company, which has 25 employees, currently has 103 sponsored athletes who have served.
"While athletic excellence is important to us, our focus is on the people who not only have worn the uniform, but give back significantly to the warrior/first-responder communities," says the company website.
And it has interjected itself into the fray via some of its athletes, using video and social media to poke fun at opponents.
Bisping has been the butt of Ranger Up jokes in the buildup to this fight, as well as his 2011 win over Ranger Up-sponsored fighter Jorge Rivera.
"We always think of someone who's deployed, someone who's out and is hanging out with his or her buddies, like what is going to amuse them," said Palmisciano.
"We tell the occasional serious story but for the most part we don't take ourselves too seriously," he added.
Kennedy, ranked eighth among 185-pound contenders in the UFC, knows fight banter is a world away from his life-and-death military job. He admits the fight game can be "surreal" at times.
"I know this is part of the job," he said of the performance/entertainment side of hyping MMA fights.
It's at complete odds to being one of the Green Berets, who call themselves the quiet professionals. Their goal is to do their job without notice.
"Everything that happens is very real and very painful and very horrible," he said. "So it is quite a stark contrast. Black and white existences"
As another Ranger Up shirt says: "I am responsible."
For more information on Ranger Up, visit www.rangerup.com/
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