Calm and confident sat Jeremy Kennedy as he waited for his turn to step on the scale for the official weigh-ins Wednesday morning.
Kennedy, a 26-year-old MMA fighter from Canada, had done his job, which for this moment was to weigh 146 pounds or less for his featherweight bout in the Professional Fighters League on Thursday at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
Kennedy weighed in at 145.4 pounds. Then the fun started.
Word had spread that his scheduled opponent, Alexandre Bezerra, wasn’t going to make weight. (He didn’t. Bezerra’s official weight was 155 pounds.)
“Injury free heading into July,” Kennedy said Wednesday morning, “that’s how I’m going to look at it.”
Kennedy (13-1) went to eat breakfast, assuming he had three points in the bank for the walkover with Bezerra missing weight. That would be a nice start in the PFL featherweight standings and set up him for a good chance at making the playoffs.
Ah, but the window for official weigh-ins is two hours and other featherweights still hadn’t weighed in. As it drew closer to the 11 a.m. deadline, Alexandre Almeida still hadn’t been to the scale. Almeida eventually made it to the scale, and Kennedy was there to watch.
That scale registered Almeida at 147 pounds, one pound above the limit. PFL officials rerouted Almeida’s scheduled opponent, Luis Rafael Laurentino, to face Kennedy at PFL 2. There went Kennedy’s three free points.
“I didn’t want the three-point rollover, I want to earn my six points,” Kennedy said after the late afternoon’s ceremonial weigh-ins. “I came here to fight. I didn’t come here to just weigh in and leave and watch the show. I came here to put it on and win my six points and put this guy away in the first round.”
Kennedy’s new opponent, Laurentino (33-1) won his first 31 pro fights before losing in February of 2016. He has fought once each year since, and this is first season in the PFL.
Bezerra (22-6) is a veteran of the sport. He reached the PFL quarterfinals last season, but lost to Freeport’s Andre Harrison.
“Having a guy show up the night before weigh-ins, I don’t even know what he was at,” Kennedy said. “He was struggling and he made 155, God knows what he was weighing yesterday and last night. That’s a weight class above. And he had trouble in the sauna, so you know he was trying.”
The PFL uses a regular season format where fighters earn three points for a win and can earn up to three additional bonus points for finishing a fight in a specific round. The top eight fighters in each division’s standings advance to the playoffs.
“I had it in my head for 5 to 10 minutes that I wasn’t fighting, so that was probably the only adversity I’ve dealt with,” Kennedy said. “Just the high and low, the real quick roller coaster of ‘You’re not fighting and now you’re fighting.’”
Such a pendulum swing, even if just for a short amount of time, can take its toll mentally. Kennedy, whose lone loss came to UFC featherweight title contender Alexander Volkanovski in February 2018, had help getting rid of that problem.
“It is a mindset change, but that was nailed out of my head real quick by my coaches,” he said. “It’s game time. It’s a tournament. It could be anybody. I should have been ready to fight any of these guys out of the 12, and that’s what I’m ready to do.”