Three weeks ago, the Lancastrian Suite in Gateshead hosted a successful Almighty Fighting Championship 20 card with fighters across the country out to impress.
Almighty Fighting Championship 20 was just one of three sensational shows promoter Ray Thompson has put on this year, with two more shows still to occur before the calendar year closes.
Higher Level MMA’s Steven Kennedy-Skipton was among the action, who displayed his full arsenal with a victory over a more experienced Ben Dickson. Steven Kennedy-Skipton looked comfortable wherever the fight took place and provided his head coach James Doolan with a unanimous decision victory to take back to Scotland.
I had the pleasure to speak with Steven after his impressive performance at Almighty FC 20.
Interview with Steven Kennedy-Skipton
Two weeks post-fight in Gateshead. I believe a well-rounded victory over Ben Dickson took you to (2-0) as an amateur. Talk to me about the fight, how you feel it went, and how pleased you were with your performance?
Steven Kennedy – “I feel the fight went as good as I had hoped. Even though I never got the finish. I got the chance to use many different skills and test myself against a more experienced opponent. I didn’t take much damage and had a couple of times where I nearly got the finish, but there’s still a lot of work for me to do.”
You traveled to England for this fight with Dickson, who trains in Sunderland. Therefore it was easy for his friends, family to make the trip and support him. He seemed to have a large group cheering him. Did you find that difficult to block out the noise and stay assigned to the task before you?
Steven Kennedy – “I never really noticed his support until after the fight. I had some friends and family down to support me, and they were right next to the cage, so they were all I saw and heard when walking. During the fight, I was focused completely on my opponent and the instructions coming from my corner. Thinking back, I can’t remember hearing any part of the crowd during the fight.”
I believe it was the end of 2019 we last saw you inside the cage with a win over Callum Mackenzie. How were your emotions in the lead-up to this fight after being out of competition for some time? Were there any nerves, anxiety, or just general excitement to get back in there competing?
Steven Kennedy – “I was keen to get back in and to see how far I have progressed as a martial artist. I knew that Ben had more experience than me but didn’t contemplate that too much. I’d say I was even more nervous than my previous fights leading up to this because I was out for so long. I knew there would be a lot of friends and family tuning in to watch me fight, so I had to come to terms with the possibility of them seeing me get beat. Once I began my final walk to the cage, all the anxiety and nerves left and entering the cage. I was completely focused.”
The knees were highly effective from the get-go for you. Was that something you worked on in camp to implement in the fight, or was that instinct on seeing the opening when in range?
Steven Kennedy – “The knees were not practiced in training. I saw an opening when he had me against the cage, so I started throwing them. I could hear they were doing damage. I kept going back to them. I know he was a good grappler as well, and so since the knees were effective, I kept using them to deal damage but also to try and make him reluctant to shoot for taking downs.”
What was the game plan leading into the fight, and do you feel you stuck to the game plan throughout? You came in there in great shape and showcased your whole arsenal. The striking was clean. Your wrestling, transitions on the ground, and takedown defense were beautiful to watch. Is that a testament to the period spent outside of the cage, allowing you to develop and have time to improve your skillset fully?
Steven Kennedy – “There wasn’t really a game plan going into this fight. I was drilling different stuff for my original opponent, but after it got swapped a few weeks before the fight, it was just a case of keeping all my tools sharp and get in there ready for whatever happens, which I feel I did well. The progress I made out of the cage is all down to the coaching and the calibre of my teammates I train with, there are no easy rounds at Higher Level, and when you’re constantly getting pushed at that level, you are only going to get better.”
When going back to your corner when the first-round ended, did you know you had his number from there? You reversed everything when he tried to implement his game on you and were able to continue controlling the fight comfortably in my eyes.
Steven Kennedy – “I went back to my corner after the first round and was pretty confident that I won that round. My only concern was if the takedown he got at the end of the round would have scored it for him. The second and third rounds, I feel, were comfortably mine, reversing his positions and landing the cleaner strikes, and the judges must have thought that too.”
Everything you threw at Dickon was crisp. When you landed the head kick and followed it up with punches, I thought that was it over. Were you surprised that Dickson was able to go the distance after finding himself in danger several times? Also, the finish would have been excellent, but are you happy to get the complete three rounds under your belt?
Steven Kennedy – “When I landed the kick, I thought I was close to getting the finish. Watching the footage back, I went for the takedown after landing some more strikes. I might have gotten the finish if I kept it standing, but Ben did a good job surviving and still going for triangles after being rocked. I’m still happy it went the distance because I had a dominant performance and got to see how I felt going the distance. I had enough in the tank left that I could of went another round or two.”
Higher Level MMA go (2-0) on the night. Showcasing the tremendous job James Doolan is doing. Talk to me about training under the watchful eye of one of the greatest minds in UK MMA and how beneficial it is to have a man like that behind you?
Steven Kennedy – “I’ve had a couple of weeks off now for a holiday and some time to relax, but I’ll be getting back to training, and then we’ll see what happens.”
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Featured Image credits to DN4 Photography