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Kennedy plans to validate 'top 3' ranking

Shortly after Ronaldo Souza submitted Gegard Mousasi at a UFC event earlier this month, Tim Kennedy reminded everyone via social media that, ahem, Strikeforce middleweights have performed pretty well since the two promotions consolidated rosters early last year.

And within the same 140-character post, he pointed out that Souza couldn't take him down when the two fought four years ago.

"Strikeforce middleweights still looking unstoppable in the UFC," Kennedy wrote on Twitter that night. "[Souza] went 0-5 in takedowns against me. I went 2-3."

Kennedy (18-4), who fights Yoel Romero at UFC 178 on Saturday in Las Vegas, is happy former Strikeforce middleweights are finally getting credit. For years, guys like Kennedy, Souza and Luke Rockhold felt overlooked just because they fought outside of the UFC. You might say a sort of bond was formed between them because of it.

As Kennedy's tweet illustrated, though, that bond only goes so far. As they were in Strikeforce, the three are in clear competition with one another. These days it's for a UFC title shot -- something Kennedy feels he should be closing in on with a win against Romero on Saturday.

The 35-year-old is 3-0 in the UFC and has won every individual round he's spent in the Octagon besides one. He admits Souza is legitimately ahead of him in the division at this point, but hopes fans won't go too nuts for Rockhold (12-2) if he beats Michael Bisping in November. Kennedy out-pointed Bisping easily in a five-round bout in April.

"If Rockhold wins and starts asking for a title shot, I'm kind of going to be like, 'What the heck?'" Kennedy said. "He might get a lot of fanfare for a win over my sloppy seconds, so to speak. I hope that doesn't happen.

"I have to go out and win this fight in a way so that that doesn't happen. Obviously, Chris Weidman is the No. 1 middleweight. Jacare is No. 2 and I believe I'm right there at No. 3."

Kennedy has made it no secret that in addition to a title shot at 185 pounds, another goal he has in 2014 is to shine a light on what he feels is an existing drug problem in mixed martial arts. Earlier this year, Kennedy told ESPN.com he had sent a request to the Nevada State Athletic Commission to randomly test he and Romero (8-1) ahead of this weekend's bout. He offered to cover his share of the costs, which are in the tens of thousands of dollars.

The NSAC has randomly tested UFC 178 main event flyweights Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso in recent weeks -- but Kennedy says, unfortunately, no test collector has knocked on his door.

"I tried to get [the NSAC] to test. I made requests, ultimatums, everything," Kennedy said. "It reached a point of no response. I just didn't hear back. So, here I am, a week out from my fight and I could have been taking anabolic steroids during my entire camp. It's a problem."

The UFC is in the process of potentially partnering with an independent sample collector to create a year-round program to test a percentage of its 500 rostered athletes, according to vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner. Ratner hopes a program could be announced by the end of the year.

Ultimately, Kennedy's focus has shifted completely on defeating Romeron (8-1), who is a former Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling.

"Any time an athlete like that comes into MMA from another sport, you keep your eye on him," Kennedy said. "I'm familiar with him. He's fought one of my teammates, previously. He's super athletic. I'm excited to fight him."