For Incubus bassist Ben Kenney, music is his first love, but mixed martial arts has grown to be an obession.
When Ben Kenney isn’t behind his bass guitar, touring the globe with his multi-platinum selling band Incubus, he is knee-deep in the fight world. Simply put, Kenney loves mixed martial arts. He’s captivated by every nuance and technique, observing and respecting the art like a tradesman learning a craft.
“To me, it’s refreshing,” Kenney says. “Once that cage door closes, there is a certain form of honesty that takes place that no other form of entertainment gives you. These guys train for months, and when it’s time to step inside the cage, they show the hard work and sacrifice they’ve put in. I’m fascinated by how different the fighters are from other entertainers that I’ve encountered over the years. When you talk to these guys, you meet the same person who is going to be at the gym training the next day. What you see is what you get. They are very honest and direct, and that is refreshing to me. For whatever reason, that doesn’t tend to be the case in other forms of entertainment.”
Downtime is definitely in short supply these days, but when Kenney finds a window, he is either catching up on MMA or in a gym putting his body through the rigors of training. Kenney’s path through MMA has been a constant evolution of fighting knowledge that was ignited through a random introduction seven years ago. It has burned intensely ever since.
“My older brother was a wrestler in New Jersey,” Kenney says. “He trained constantly and was all about combat
sports. He had been watching the UFC for a long time. I’m talking going back to the time when people were passing around VHS tapes. He moved to California in 2005, and we were just hanging out when he threw one on. I was immediately captivated. I became completely obsessed with that whole world.”
Since rocking the tapes and watching the pioneers of the sport in action, Kenney has been fixated on MMA’s progression. His hectic recording and touring schedule makes it diffi cult to catch every event in real time, but after the crowds have left the arena, he’s digging in to catch up on what he’s missed.
He does what he can to keep up to date, but in his opinion, nothing beats the intensity of being at a live event. In fact, one particular cage-side experience in the intimate setting of The Pearl at the Palms in Las Vegas altered his view of just how real it gets.
“A few years back, I watched a fight between John Howard and Dennis Hallman,” Kenney says. “I was with Joe Stevenson, and we were walking down toward the cage. We were right against the Octagon when Howard clipped Hallman and knocked him out. The sound of the impact was like, ‘Oh shit!’ I’ve never been so close to something like that. It was ridiculous.”
When most entertainers are asked to provide a list of their favorite fi ghters, a handful of familiar names are at the ready. This isn’t the case for Kenney. His involvement and ties with the sport run deep, and rather than focus on those who are currently dominating the rankings, he has his sights set on the fi ghters who are on the horizon of shaking up the game.
“I definitely keep up with the sport and have my eye on a few guys who I think could really do something,” he says. “At heavyweight, I’m watching Travis Browne because I believe he could be the next big thing. Alexander Gustafsson presents some interesting problems. Phil Davis is another guy I’m watching because I believe once he gets his standup game to match his wrestling, he’s going to be trouble for everyone in the light heavyweight division. The welterweight division is crazy right now with a bunch of guys who are just crushing it. I love Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson, but the 155-pound weight class has so many exciting guys that I have no choice but to watch every lightweight fight.”
Now that Incubus has recently finished co-headlining the Honda Civic Tour with Linkin Park, Kenney and the rest of the band will be able to take some time off—and for Kenney, that means more time in the gym.