Interim or not, Casey Kenney is ready to be recognized as one of the best at 125 and 135 pounds.
Kenney won the Legacy Fighting Alliance interim flyweight title last November with a lopsided decision win over Brandon Royval, and he’s now set to compete for an interim bantamweight title after in injury forced undisputed 135-pound champ Miles Johns out of his scheduled defense against Vincent Cachero. It’s now Kenney who will face Cachero in the main event of LFA 62 on Friday at The Bomb Factory in Dallas.
Though Kenney, 28, hasn’t had the chance to “beat the man to be the man” as the famous saying goes, he’s not downplaying what it would mean to become a dual-division titleholder. He’s already tasted gold with a respected promotion, capturing the Tachi Palace Fights flyweight championship two years ago, and he’s also competed twice on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.
All of that experience has him confident that a call from the UFC is on its way.
“Being LFA’s first champ-champ, you can’t beat it, right? Someone’s gotta do it,” Kenney told MMA Fighting. “We’ll see how things play out, but I like where I’m sitting when I get both of these belts. What else more is there to do? Two LFA belts, the Tachi belt, two wins on the Contender Series — the decision didn’t go my way in the last one, but I think even that fight was ranked like, second of all the fights of the most exciting fights on the Contender Series.
“I’m an exciting fighter. I put on a clinic against Royval, these guys have survived the rounds and I’m looking to put somebody away. I think that’s what kept me out of the UFC roster for now. But I’m going to keep chipping away and they can’t deny me forever.”
Kenney hasn’t finished a fight since submitting Alvin Cacdac in February 2017 to win the TPF title, but he questions the judging in the two bouts in his career that didn’t end with his hand being raised.
Officially, he’s 11-1-1, but Kenney considers himself to be undefeated. He believes he convincingly won a May 2017 bout with Bruno Silva that was scored a split draw, and that he deserved to get the nod in a split loss to Adam Antolin in his second Contender Series appearance.
“I didn’t lose that fight,” Kenney said of the Antolin bout, adding that White even told him that he thought Kenney won. “Honestly, in the 12 fights that I’ve had, the [loss and the draw] that I’ve had, I beat those guys up the most. Bruno looked like his face was in a meat grinder, the draw that I had at LFA, and then Antolin, I may have given him the third round, but he survived in the first two rounds and that’s all he did.
“I won’t ever take that loss. I’m undefeated. I’ve never been defeated in the cage.”
With a win Friday, Kenney will consider himself to be on equal ground with LFA’s undisputed champs (“Titles are titles,” he said), especially given that fighters who win belts in the promotion rarely stick around to defend them as they’re regularly called up to larger organizations. He’s open to future title defenses against Johns at 135 or flyweight champ Maikel Perez, but his mind is also set on a UFC contract. One reason he’s excited about competing at bantamweight is he feels it gives him a better shot of achieving that goal with the UFC’s flyweight division in limbo.
A judo black belt who later left behind a wrestling scholarship from the University of Indianapolis to pursue his MMA dreams, Kenney thinks he has the skill set — and now the in-cage reps — to immediately step into the Octagon with the UFC’s best.
“The first time I got a call from (the UFC), or I was on the radar, was when I was 5-0,” Kenney said. “I’ve pretty much been ready since then, so now seven fights later, going on two-and-a-half years. I’m not in a rush, but there’s kind of that point that I know I’m ready to make a run deep into the top 10 of the UFC. When I was 5-0, I thought I was ready, but there’s so many levels to this game and now that I’ve fought my last seven, now eight fights against UFC-caliber type of opponents, and I’ve learned a ton from that.
“I think I’m ready to make a run, so I’m not really in a hurry because when your time comes, it comes fast. I’m still young, I’ve still got plenty of time, but I just feel like I’ve put in the work, I’ve put in the time, I’m ready to make my run, so let’s do it.”