Strikeforce and Showtime Sports, have teamed up with the American Forces Network to deliver live MMA events to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces serving overseas via AFN, the worldwide television broadcast network. The deal calls for all Strikeforce events for the remainder of 2009 to be distributed on AFN including the Nov. 7 M-1 Global co-promotion of Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brett Rogers, airing live on CBS Television Network.
The debut offering—this Friday’s Strikeforce Challengers event on Showtime—features American military hero Tim Kennedy, the 29-year-old Special Forces soldier who has served tours of duty in Middle East, versus undefeated middleweight Zak Cummings in the main event from Tulsa, Okla.
“We are proud to be able to bring live Strikeforce events to the men and women of The United States Armed Forces,” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said. “These are people that have dedicated their lives to protecting our country so it’s great to be able to give something back to them. And the timing couldn’t be better. Having Army Ranger Tim Kennedy headline a terrific Challengers event is the perfect start.”
“Special thanks to Scott Coker for providing the AFN Broadcast Center with the approval,” says AFN’s Executive Director, Jeffrey White. “Without his initiative and clear understanding of our worldwide military broadcasting mission, delivery of Strikeforce to our well-deserving audience overseas would not be possible.”
The U.S. Department of Defense operates the American Forces Network which is carried on bases in 175 countries and aboard 140 U.S. Navy ships at sea around the world reaching nearly one million American service men and women.
“We are delighted to add Strikeforce mixed martial arts programs to our AFN schedule,” said Corey Slutsky, Sports Director at the American Forces Network. “We provide a touch of home to U.S. military service members and their families deployed around the world and we salute the Strikeforce team for their support of the troops.”
An elated Kennedy said: “This is freaking fantastic news. Right now, the Special Forces group that I recently left are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every single friend of mine is over there and I was planning on emailing every one of them the results of my fight right after it finished on Friday, but instead they get to watch it. I’ll be emailing everyone tonight and telling them and letting them know.”
Kennedy spoke to the popularity of MMA amongst his fellow soldiers, “It attracts the same kind of people: Intense, excited, aggressive, athletic type people. Also, the skills that guys use in MMA are skills that guys use to stay alive in combat. Boxing, wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, that’s stuff that soldiers use to survive. Some of the Special Forces guys train in that stuff everyday. And for them to get to watch some of the guys that are the best in the world at it is exciting.”
Kennedy, (10-2) recently accepted an offer to serve in the Texas National Guard after spending six years in The United States Army, the last three as a sniper in the Seventh Special Forces Group.
He feels no pressure whatsoever being the main event Friday. “If I’m not getting blown up or getting shot at then it only means it’s going to be fun for me,” he said. “This is not life threatening. This is me going out and doing something that I enjoy and I enjoy fighting.”
In his last start, on June 19 at ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash., on Strikeforce Challengers, Kennedy dominated Nick “The Goat” Thompson, stopping him on the ground with an onslaught of punches in the second round (2:37).
“After 9/11 happened, I wanted to do something for my country,” he explained. Kennedy’s new job will allow him to remain in the armed services while maintaining enough flexibility to take his MMA career to the next level.
“The military is my life,” said Kennedy. “I am going to serve as long as they’ll let me. I’d love to retire in uniform.”