Local Fighters

Kenny Booker Done With MMA, But Not Fighting

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Rockford fighter Kenny Booker is putting down the 4-oz. gloves for good. The MTC fighter recently retired from MMA, but he’s not done fighting — just changing gloves. We talked to him recently about giving up MMA to focus solely on Muay Thai and K1 fights.

“You know in all honesty I never really liked MMA. I liked Muay Thai. The reason I didn’t do Thai instead was because all it would have been was kickboxing, which was just a glorified sparring session based on the headgear and shinguards you’re made to wear during amateur matches. I wanted just gloves and shorts so I took the MMA lane and ended up being pretty good at it, so I stuck with it to see what I could accomplish,” Booker told Chicago’s MMA.

“The Gorilla” won his first two pro fights and then signed with Bellator. He fought at Bellator 84 in Hammond, losing to Robert White by decision. But he had made it to a national promotion and his future looked bright.

But Booker tired of all the uncertainties in MMA, something not as common in Muay Thai. “Guys pulling out of fights the week of or even at weigh-ins took its toll on me.”

Kenny Booker signing Bellator contract, courtesy Suckerpunch Ent.

Kenny Booker signing his Bellator contract.

Having fighters drop out of matches is one of the tougher parts of the sport, and it affects every individual involved with the event: opponent, coach, promoter, sponsor and even the fans. How fun it must be to work for months in a training camp, eschewing your social life, family time and food, all to have it fall apart at the last minute. Time is the great commodity. The fight life is short. When a scheduled fight falls apart with no replacement, it’s simply the worst scenario for a fighter.

That wasn’t the only reason Booker quit MMA, but he found that he just couldn’t muster anymore energy for the sport. The wide smile of the kid signing that Bellator contract is gone. “At this point I only watch it if I have friends or teammates fighting. I’ve lost all the love I had years ago. I’ve been forcing it.”

The final straw came after his March fight with Reggie Parks at NAAFS 1 in Ohio.

“I fought him in his hometown. Everybody felt — even his home crowd — that I won. But one judge scored it for me 29-27, one for him 29-28 and the last judge 29-26 for him. I’ve heard of screw jobs before but never that blatant. So I told the commission I was contesting it and making a fuss about it. They called me the following Tuesday and said it was a mix up with the cards and that it was a draw! Needless to say that was pretty much it for me. I got screwed. Parks even told me in the cage he lost.”

So Booker will head back to his first love: Muay Thai. He’ll work with Ian Alexander at Fusion MMA, and hopes to make his debut within a few months. He’ll also continue to coach.

Booker leaves the MMA game behind with no personal regrets, but he would have liked to fight more.

“I wish I didn’t waste my time with training hard to not fight a handful of times, but it is what it is. I can look back and know that I did everything my way and I was true to who I was. You always got me, none of that fake WWE shit just to get people talking about me.”

As for MMA itself, Booker says it’s different now than when he first got into it, at least when it comes to the highest level of the sport.

“The state of MMA is basically a popularity contest full of big mouths trying to get the big fights, in my opinion. I’m not feeling it at all. I’m still a fan, but I’m loving the local pro/am scene. Seeing these young guys and girls put on great performances with their athletic abilities rather then their mouths is great to see.”

Booker wanted to publicly thank all the people who helped him get as far as he did, and those who showed support along the way.

“First and foremost gotta thank the fans who have cheered me from day one religiously! You guys really were my positive energy through 5+ years of training camps with your words of encouragement. Also the fake friends and teammates — you are also appreciated. I loved proving you all wrong. My teams over the years: Aurelio DeLaRosa of DeLaRosa Submission Wrestling and Coach Jeremy Cuttill. I never forget where I came from and where I got my start. Team Curran and Sensei Jeff along with the tremendous coaching staff/fighters there, Coach Jones who’s been there since day one. Brian Butler-Au of Suckerpunch Entertainment for taking a chance on me and representing me. Last but not least, my current coach Alex Trujillo and Midwest Training Center, where I’ll always train and who will always be in my corner. There’s a lot more teammates and coaches but I’d be here for hours naming them all! But just know I appreciate you ALL! MMA Recap, Chicago’s MMA, Joey Hill, Brent Todd, Tom Barnes, Mike Herron, Shayne Adams, my love Brittany Giddings and my big brother Dan Lardy of XFO. I’m leaving with this…Kick ASS Felice Herrig on #tuf20 #teamlbd #lbdrehab #Muaythaimafia!

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About Matt Lo Cascio

Matt Lo Cascio is a former TV producer who turned to new media in 2005, and he is the co-founder and editor of Chicago’s MMA. He is also the play-by-play announcer for the XFO. His work has been published by ESPN.com, DraftKings, The Comeback, FanSided and more.

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