The Freeman name is legendary in MMA. Everyone knows who Ian “The Machine” Freeman is, what he has accomplished, and how he worked damned hard for it; but what some people may not know is there is now a female ‘Machine’ in the shape of his daughter Kennedy. She’s a fighter in her own right. She’s slowly making hard waves on the female fight scene. She is a fighter I have had my eye on for some time and really enjoy watching, and with a pedigree like hers there is no doubt that this young lady is going to rock her division in style. I was lucky enough to get some time with the very talented Kennedy Freeman.
I started off by asking Kennedy what her background was, and an early start in martial arts did not surprise me. “I started martial arts at 4 years old, as my Dad had a gym in Legate Consett, but it was more for fun and fitness for me. I eventually lost interest and started playing football and other sports aged 8 years old, and started competing in them in school and County teams. I did well in football and I was playing for four different teams for many years”.
It seems obvious that Kennedy has sport in her blood as she explains “It was actually my younger cousin Kane that got me back into martial arts as he was kickboxing for Northeast Kickboxing Academy, (NEKA) and had his first fight coming up so I went along to support him at his local tournament. I instantly had the urge to get back into it, as I saw kids my own age competing. At that time my Dad did not have children’s classes at his gym, so he spoke to Wesley Fagan, the NEKA coach about me and a week after I started my first class there. I had my first competitive bout, trained by Wes about eight months later, and carried on training and competing for about two years. My first fight was at fourteen years of age, which was a kickboxing above the waist bout”.
With a taste for Kickboxing, Kennedy was now in full swing, revealing her next step up the ladder. “I left Wes Fagans gym when I was sixteen as I found it hard to get bouts, with my name getting around quickly, resulting in Wes finding it hard to match me. With the added problem of both my Mam and Dad finding it hard to get me there due to their full time coaching at my Dad’s new gym in Stanley in the evenings. I started competing for my Dad toward the end of my journey with NEKA, training in a variety of disciplines, making it slightly easier for me to be matched. Ranging from boxing, low kick, K1 and Thai, I had around thirty bouts in total by the time I was eighteen, finally moving into MMA two weeks after my nineteenth birthday. I have now been competing in MMA for a year”.
Kennedy is very comfortable at her fight weight as she explains, “I currently fight at flyweight, which is 56 kg so it’s not a big cut for me as I walk around at 56 -59kg. As I’m Amateur my weigh in is on the same day as the fight so we are allowed 1kg extra allowance which is 57kg, so this suits me very well. Along with a good diet and training, I make weight easy. My first MMA fight was at 62kg as my diet wasn’t very good and I was a little heavier, I realized the females in the division were a lot taller than me, so I decided to drop a weight class, which is much better for me”.
Freeman did find it a tough transition into MMA, “I found it hard and frustrating to make the change, and I am still adapting to it now. As I had trained in those different disciplines before MMA I had assumed it would be easy to adapt; but no, MMA is a totally different ball game. I had many bad habits from my stand-up that I had to change going into MMA, and as I had been training in stand-up for many years, these habits were not going to disappear overnight.” Kennedy’s MMA record at this precise time stands at MMA 3-1 UAR Rules. Thai Boxing 1-0. K1 2-0, Boxing 3-0. Full contact Kickboxing 2-0, along with around twenty bouts in tournaments resulting in 16 wins and 4 losses.
Kennedy has certainly put her time into her bouts building up her experience, so I asked her what her greatest achievement has been so far. “I’m a two-time World Champion Kickboxing gold medalist. When I was fifteen, I fought in two different World Championships in the same year, the ICO World’s and the BFKKO World’s. To me this was a good achievement as I had only been competing for a year when I won these titles. My biggest achievement was to win my first MMA fight with a head kick KO in 16 seconds. It wasn’t how I won, it was the fact that I got in there and finally fought MMA after years of stand up. I was finally starting my MMA career “.
I asked Kennedy if she had any special traditions she likes to partake in before a fight that may bring her good luck. “On the day of my fight, I like to wear my boxing glove necklace, this was a present I got off my Mam and Dad for my sixteenth birthday. The chain was my Nana’s, (my Mam’s Mam) and she wore it every day. When she passed away they added a nice boxing glove to it and gave it to me for my birthday. I like to wear that on a fight day; more for comfort than good luck, and I always give the necklace to my Mam to wear just before I go to warm up for my fight. It makes me think that my Nana and Grandad are with my Mam whilst I’m fighting”.
Having the legendary Freeman name can be a blessing and a curse says Kennedy. “It comes as both”, she laughed. “My Dad never ever pushed me into fighting or training, and at a young age, I don’t think he thought I would follow in his footsteps, as I was more into football. I decided to start competing because I wanted to, plus I loved the sport as I grew up watching MMA. I do get a lot of recognition by having the Freeman name, and I couldn’t ask for a better coach than my Dad, and I’m sure my name may open the door for great opportunities in the future, as my Dad made a great name for himself; however, it does have its downfalls. A lot of females won’t fight me because of my name, and this has been a problem from day one, with added pressure for me to live up to my Dad’s name. The plus side is I have bigger support for my fights with a bigger fan base, so that’s not a bad thing“.
It is obvious that Kennedy has a good head on her shoulders, an extra string to her bow is coaching children. I asked her about this as I know it’s something she loves to do every week. “Yes, I absolutely love coaching the kids at the gym, they are a great bunch, and are doing really well now. I take them all over the country to compete, and abroad too. They have competed in the World Championships in Spain for the past two years and have many title belts between them. I hope to coach these children until they are old enough to move onto MMA and start their adult training. Coaching is something I’m really passionate about”.
Asking about any motivational quotes that Kennedy may use in her life, I wasn’t surprised in Kennedy’s response “Fight hard, learn more, grow strong is a quote that I like. In fact I have it tattooed on my back. Another one I like is, We train together, we learn together and we fight together, that one is a great one for the children in the gym also. They all have it on the back of their training kits and it’s on a big sign in the gym, reminding everyone that we are one big team and we do everything together”.
Kennedys 5-year plan is simple, “I have dreamed of getting into the UFC and that is what I am working toward every day. To fight in the UFC would be my dream come true. Firstly, I must make the change from amateur MMA to pro and see how it goes from there; but I am going to do all I can to make a good name for myself and make it into the UFC”.
With so many males and females in the sport to idolize, Kennedy finds it hard to name one as the level is so high, but Kennedy’s Dad, Ian Freeman, is the first name on her list. “Obviously, my Dad is one of my idols as he has been there and done everything I would love to achieve, and knowing his story and his journey, he really outdid himself. I look up to the old-school fighters like Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz as they were the ones I watched fighting in the UFC when I was younger, the legends in MMA. My female idol is Cris Cyborg, she is a beast. I’m so glad she managed to get into the UFC. I love her fighting style, this style is what I look to achieve in the future, with all her fights so exciting and explosive and her being so down to earth and humble”.
I asked Kennedy, if she could fight any female in the world, who would it be and why. “That is a tricky one to answer. On a realistic level, I would love a rematch with the one female who put a loss on my MMA record, and I’m looking to get this fight very soon, as I want to prove to everyone including myself, that I was having a bad day in the office, and that on another day, I would have won. So yeah, Meagan O’Loughlin, I want a rematch. Apart from Meagan I would love to fight Cyborg. I know I’m nowhere near her level yet, but it would be such a pleasure to just say I shared a cage with her as I look up to her that much”.
Kennedy would like to thank all her supporters and fans that have been on her journey so far, “I would like to thank everyone, especially all my team mates from Team Machine who push me in training and help me out during fight camp, I really love those guys. A huge thank you to my Dad Ian and Mam Angie. They help me out so much with my Mam making all my meals and sorting the right supplements. She makes my weight cut and training much less of a hassle. Thank you to my Dad for all the coaching and time he spends on me, going strength training with me on a morning and most importantly being in my corner for my fight, knowing how to keep me switched on.
I hope one day I can repay them for everything.
Kennedy Freeman is certainly a growing talent in this country. Coming from a unique MMA family, where both the father and daughter compete in the sport, she has the strength and tenacity to get to the top. One thing I have always noticed about Kennedy is, after her fight, she goes straight over to her opponent to check she’s ok. That says a lot about her nature. A very tenacious, explosive style has kept Kennedy one step ahead, those steps will help get this unique young lady to the top.
Images courtesy of Martyn Jones, Jeffrey Galuidi and the Freeman family.
Article by Beccy Davies