It was 1 p.m. on Monday, and Casey Kenney had just sat down to enjoy a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and a protein shake after a morning of running and grappling at the gym. That’s when he got the call to the UFC to fight Ray Borg this Saturday at UFC on ESPN 2.
“The Cinnamon Toast Crunch went down the drain,” Kenney told MMASucka.
Kenney (11-1-1) had just fought the previous Friday on March 22, where he captured the LFA vacant interim bantamweight title with a first-round flying knee knockout over the previously undefeated Vincent Cachero. On less than a week’s notice, the LFA interim flyweight and bantamweight champion will fight a former UFC flyweight title challenger in Borg.
Kenney felt his quick knockout of Cachero would yield a call to the Octagon, but he thought it would have taken at least a couple of weeks. However, the timing of it doesn’t bother him at all.
“It’s something that I’ve dreamed about and thought about,” Kenney said about his chance to fight in the UFC. “I thought I should be here already, but it’s finally here.”
Kenney came close, as he went 1-1 on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in summer 2017. He might have had his chance two years ago had it not been for a pair of questionable judges’ scorecards in his second appearance on the Contender Series.
Following that, Kenney went on a 4-0 run under the LFA banner. In the process, he became the promotion’s first dual-weight champion.
Now, his goal is the UFC bantamweight belt. Borg will be the first obstacle in his way, someone Kenney clearly has respect for.
“His last fight was for the flyweight belt,” Kenney said. That [division] was my home for a long time. Starting it off with one of the top-5 guys in the world at that weight, there’s not a better way to make a bang and a splash here at the UFC, make my claim that I belong here. Not only belong here, but that I belong in the [bantamweight] top-10.”
Borg has not fought since his October 2017 loss to Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight title. Numerous fights have fallen through on Borg for a handful of reasons. His UFC 223 fight with Brandon Moreno was cancelled after he suffered an eye injury due to Conor McGregor’s bus attack in Brooklyn. Borg then had to worry about health scares with his son and his own medical issues on two different occasions. Injuries to opponents Pingyuan Liu and Kyler Phillips nearly put his upcoming return in jeopardy before Kenney stepped in. Kenney has fought and won four times since Borg’s last fight.
“Definitely never count him out,” Kenney said of Borg’s mental state before his return. “He’s been in there and put in some tough, heart-filled fights. But I’m a killer right now. I know where my mind’s at. He’s probably questioning where his is at, whether it’s ready to go or if it’s like all the other times. I’ve got no questions about my mind. I’ll expect the best Ray Borg, but we’ll see how well his mind holds up.”
Kenney feels a win over Borg would be a great start to his UFC career and put him on the cusp of the bantamweight rankings. From there, he predicts he’ll earn a crack at the title in a year or two.
“I’m not in any hurry,” he said. “I want to come in [against Borg] and make my splash. After this, I’ll sit back and focus on getting better. That’s the main goal. I’m not really trying to rush anything. This is the place I wanted to be and now I’m here. Now I can sit back, pick my shots, take my time and start taking out the bantamweight division.”
It starts with Borg, who is making his own UFC bantamweight debut. Kenney predicts he’ll knock the veteran out in the first round, though he’s ready for 15 minutes wherever the fight goes.
“Borg’s a wrestling, grappling-dominant guy. I love to be there, really. I’m feeling like one of the most complete mixed martial artists in the world, especially coming off of that last knockout. My striking is deadly, my grappling is deadly. If he wants to turn it into a wrestling match, be ready.”
UFC on ESPN 2 goes down Saturday, March 30 from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.