Unified MMA 38’s Jared Kilkenny has a big rematch in the show’s main event, and spoke to Cageside Press about the fight, training with former UFC and now ONE Championship heavyweight Arjan Bhullar, and more.
Jared Kilkenny prepares for a second go-around with Christian Larsen but this time the stakes are higher. The rematch is the main event for Unified MMA 38 and the heavyweight championship is up for grabs. The belt was vacated when Tanner Boser was signed to UFC and therefore unable to continue defending the strap.
This bout to crown a new champion involves one of Boser’s teammates who’s looking for redemption against the man who knocked him out in less than two minutes to put the only blemish on his pro record. Larsen will collide with the last man Boser defended his Unified title against in hopes of tying up their series with each other. There are a lot of compelling narrative tendrils to this fight.
Canadian Martial Arts Centre
Kilkenny (13-11) mainly plies his trade at the vaunted Lethbridge gym CMC. “I’ve been lucky to be associated with Lee Mein and his program in one way or another since I started this MMA journey,” he said. “He’ll go down in the Canadian MMA hall of fame for sure. He’s a wealth of knowledge and I’m lucky to be able to soak it up.”
The gym culture at Canadian Martial Arts Centre is one with a lot of camaraderie that underpins the hard training sessions. Kilkenny joked that the first fight at CMC is for the aux cord and who gets to pick the music that’s jammed to that day.
One notable partner Kilkenny has the benefit of training alongside is Sheldon Doll. The benefit doesn’t solely lie in Doll being a great sparring partner but also in the fact that he has his own high stakes title fight for Unified MMA 38. “How is it to train with Sheldon Doll? To be honest it’s terrible,” quipped Kilkenny. “It’s so hard. I’ve never seen a fighter with a focus like that guy has”. Iron sharpening iron will pay dividends in the lead up to Unified MMA 38.
Unified MMA 38
There’s tangible respect between the mixed martial arts gyms in Lethbridge and Edmonton. Specifically between CMC and the Shaved Bears where there have been multiple past match-ups that have pitted the two sides against each other. Kilkenny said, “Well if you look at the stable of athletes coming out of Edmonton and specifically the Shaved Bears they’re all killers.”
He continued, “I had a great tilt with Christian Larsen back in 2017, he came back and had a couple notable wins and wants to get that back. I think he’s currently ranked number three in Canada. Then when you talk about guys like Tanner Boser, you stand in there with him and throw leather for four rounds. I didn’t come away with a win but I came away with a whole new respect for his style of fighting. They’re not the kind of guys that will duck and run from fights.”
Kilkenny was not devastated for too long by the title loss to Boser in his last outing. In fact Kilkenny seemed to learn a tremendous amount which has bolstered his confidence. “I think that’s something that really plays well in my favor,” he said. “I was disappointed in the stoppage but I’ve gone back and watched the fight a little obsessively from start to finish. For me to still have gas in the tank going into those championship rounds was great. As soon as I could walk after the Boser fight, I was back in the gym.”
Kilkenny has got in some top-notch work with guys outside of CMC as well. Notably, Kilkenny spent time with Arjan Bhullar cross-training. “I was lucky enough to go out and train with Arjan,” he revealed. “The first thing I learned out there was the importance of wrestling. He was able to suck my soul just with top pressure and the appropriate usage of body weight.”
Kilkenny has also spent time with Roy Nelson training in Las Vegas and looks to do more of that in the near future. “Getting rounds with him (Roy), Tim Johnson, Ray Sefo, Francis Ngannou, Brad Tavares, some up and comers. Just every day is a learning experience and it’s always a positive environment,” Kilkenny explained. “I think after winning this belt, I’m going to go down to Vegas and get some rounds with Roy before his rematch with Frank Mir.”
As of late, Kilkenny has noticed huge changes in his strength and conditioning from the new regime he’s on. Kilkenny joked that Lee Mein has been trying to get him to do it for around ten years but that he’s a notoriously slow learner sometimes.
The winged serpent
This newfound strength has really been bolstering Kilkenny’s all-around MMA game. This is evident in Kilkenny’s grappling where he’s looking to morph into the winged serpent. When explaining that concept, Kilkenny said, “The winged serpent speaking strictly in Jiu-Jitsu terms…..you don’t teach a big man jiu-jitsu because it’s like giving a serpent wings. Well now if the big man knows jiu-jitsu and the big man has cardio, he has wings and also has teeth and claws.”
He continued, “I want to have every weapon available to me. I think in my old age and my veteran years, I”m slowly checking off those boxes that I probably should have earlier.”
Kilkenny is certainly a game competitor. He has some ideas of wanting to do combat jiu-jitsu in the future and also lethwei. Anything in the name of growing as a martial artist and further honing his skills all around.
Coming back strong
Earlier in Kilkenny’s career, he had a multi-year hiatus. He had his arm broke below the elbow and his wrist was touching his elbow in a fight. Kilkenny ate and drank a lot during his time off which made his eventual comeback admittedly difficult. Kilkenny found reasons to push through these feelings and make a turn around though.
“I got married and my wife has always been there for me,” he told us. “When you have a family it just puts things in a different light. You want to take things seriously and you want to indulge less. You want to be a beacon of inspiration. Not a grey cloud over the family. You can’t tell your child to do her best if you’re not doing the same.”
Kilkenny also coaches a U 17 basketball team which keeps him grounded. It puts him in a position to motivate and inspire people through his own behaviors.
Jared Kilkenny vs Christian Larsen II goes at River Cree Resort and Casino in Enoch, Alberta. The event takes place Friday, September 27 and is a the top of the marquee. This heavyweight championship fight is one of three title bouts booked for this blockbuster event. The card streams online via FITE.tv