Cody McKenzie was hardly devastated when he was cut by the UFC in December. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be competing with the best MMA fighters in the world — he absolutely does. It was just the "politics" of being at that level that didn’t agree with him.
McKenzie prescribes to a different set of values than his peers. He’s quirky and has no filter. He isn’t interested in what UFC president Dana White might call "playing the game."
"I definitely feel like I’m not in there because I’m not a puppet, I’m not their little poster boy," McKenzie told FOX Sports last week.
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If McKenzie could just fight and not worry about anything else, he would be content. And that’s why the opportunity to compete in the Battlegrounds MMA O.N.E. tournament June 27 in Tulsa was so attractive to him. The event is a one-night, eight-man tourney — a throwback to the early era of the sport. The winner earns $50,000.
"I’m all about that old-school stuff," McKenzie said. "I didn’t get into this sport to make money otherwise I wouldn’t be in it at all."
‘Mainstream’ will ruin MMA. It’s not going to be fighting anymore. Soon, it’s going to be touch fighting.
Maybe McKenzie would have been a better fit in MMA 15 years ago. He hates rules restrictions. He’s in favor of soccer kicks and knees to the head on the ground. McKenzie "applauds" the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission for "having some balls" and sanctioning a one-night tournament, which many other governing bodies have shied away from.
"’Mainstream’ will ruin MMA," McKenzie said. "It’s not going to be fighting anymore. Soon, it’s going to be touch fighting. … They’re making up rules as they go along. It’s our safety. We didn’t go into fighting for safety. This isn’t basketball."
The 26-year-old Alaska native was released by the UFC after a unanimous decision loss to Sam Stout at FOX UFC Saturday in December. Way more notable than the defeat was the fact that McKenzie wore just-bought Nike basketball shorts in the Octagon — and referee Herb Dean had to pull off the tag.
McKenzie hates being asked about what happened. He doesn’t understand why people care about what he wears while he fights. Basically, McKenzie forgot his fight shorts at the hotel after an earlier wakeup call than he expected. Once he got to the arena in Sacramento and realized he didn’t have his clothes, he asked one of his friends to run down the street to pick up a pair of shorts.
"I like fighting in those basketball style shorts," McKenzie said. "They’re loose and comfortable."
McKenzie (right) wore a pair of white basketball shorts — with the tag still on — against Sam Stout in December.
There was no concern from his sponsors, because McKenzie said he didn’t have any. He said he has only gotten sponsorships for two fights in his MMA career. He refuses to put anything on his fight clothes for under $2,000, out of principle.
"A lot of these guys aren’t even making real money," McKenzie said. "You look like a f***ing billboard for $500. That’s not even real money."
Before and even during his stint with the UFC, McKenzie was a commercial fisherman in Alaska and said he made pretty good money doing it. Right now, though, he’s focused on the Battlegrounds tournament and training full time. He even hired a boxing coach — the first real coach he’s ever had in his MMA career.
"I think it will be a big deal for whoever wins," McKenzie said.
And not because where it puts the victor in the rankings. McKenzie couldn’t care less about the media or fans and what they have to say. He doesn’t understand how people who have never fought in their lives could pass their opinion along about fighting.
"It’s like a virgin telling a porn star how to f***," McKenzie said.
The best part about not being in the UFC for McKenzie, though, is he doesn’t have to fight just twice or three times a year, although he does want to return to organization one day. He would just fight every single day if he could. McKenzie is coming off a win last month over Mark Dobie at Battle for the Border 3 in British Columbia.
"It’s nice to be away from the UFC where I can just fight every week and just make ends meet," McKenzie said. … "The last few years I’ve been pretty burned out on the sport and the politics of the sport."