Sleep deprivation is just one of the many sacrifices Kenneth Glenn makes for his family, coaches and fire department. Following a lengthy stint in the army, Glenn went 3-2 as a professional boxer, 9-7 as a mixed martial artist, he’s earned a black belt in jiu jitsu, he teaches kids that martial art and serves as a captain of the Minneapolis Fire Department.
A husband and father of three (soon to be four), Glenn has perfected prioritizing his schedule while learning the discipline of balance. Taking the many lessons learned in the army and applying them to his hectic schedule lightens the load, as well.
Glenn took time out of his busy day to break down fatherhood, fighting and life as a firefighter for Zenger.
Percy Crawford interviewed Kenneth Glenn for Zenger.
Zenger: How have you been?
Glenn: I’ve been good. No complaints. I’ve been busy, but a good type of busy.
Zenger: Given all you’ve done, if I didn’t know you, I would guess you are in your 60s (laughing). How old are you?
Glenn: (Laughing). I’m 35.
Zenger: You’ve packed a lot into those years. Let’s start with the military and what made you join.
Glenn: I grew up in Chicago. My mom, luckily for us, she always wanted to get us out of there. My sister got a full scholarship to Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina. My mom went out there to visit her, she came back and was like, “We’re moving!” We laughed, thought she was joking, but after I graduated from eighth grade we were gone the next day. So we moved to North Carolina and I loved it, but I knew I wanted to do something different. I wanted to see the world on my own.
My brother had joined the army before. So a recruiter called me and was like, “What do you think about it?” I said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” I didn’t give it much thought. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I was active duty six out of my 12 years. It taught me a lot about life. I had no idea what I was “joining” when I was doing it, but I built lifelong relationships with friends, and experiences that I will have forever that I never thought about. So, I’m definitely happy I did it.
Zenger: Were you training boxing and mixed martial arts in the military, or did that come afterwards?
Glenn: When you get deployed you had to do what is called combatives. It’s pre-mobilization training. There are a bunch of things you gotta do — you gotta learn some basic Arabic, you gotta qualify with the rifle, things like that, before you go.
I wrestled in high school and that helped make those combatives come super easy to me. It was fun. I got to choke a couple of people out, take some people down, get some people in a guillotine. It felt good. In the back of my mind when I was deployed, I was like, “Maybe I should pursue that a little more.” I ended up doing that.
Zenger: You don’t turn down many fights — why is that?
Glenn: I’m not a spring chicken. It took me a little while to get here. Honestly, I think I am reaching my athletic prime now. When they ask what my goals are, I tell them, I just want to maximize my potential. I want to be able to look back and say, I give it my all. Especially since COVID hit, I was looking for a fight. I finally got everything in life right. I always say, if life outside the ring ain’t right, then it’s not going to be right inside the ring. It’s going to catch up to you. You have to have balance, and I finally got the balance. Any opportunity I have to showcase some skills, I’m in.
Zenger: How do you balance your fighting career with your career as captain of the Minneapolis Fire Department?
Glenn: Firefighting is the best job ever. I’ve been doing it for about seven years, and haven’t had a day when I didn’t want to go to work. I work 24 hours, I’m off 24 hours, then I work 24 hours, and then I’m off 72 hours. It ends up being 10 days a month, and you can trade days. So, let’s just say somebody’s got a kid’s birthday party on a Friday, and they wanna trade that day, you can work that day for them. So, I trade a lot of days in order to get substantial training in and manage everything else. It works out pretty good.
Zenger: You live and work in Minneapolis. What are your thoughts on George Floyd’s death??
Glenn: Being a black man, it was tough. Philando Castile‘s death [in 2016] was pretty fresh in my head because that happened very close to Minneapolis. But to see the same cops that I work with on calls at times kill a man was super hard. To see another black man murdered by the police was hard. Happening in my city made it even tougher. The riots and everything going on made things even more difficult.
The hardest part was hearing everyone having an opinion about what was going on, but none of the people with negative opinions wanted to help the situation. You’re dealing with poverty-stricken people that feel they have nothing in life, add the pandemic to that, and it was an erupting volcano. The perfect mix for an explosion.
I saw the destruction of the city firsthand, and that was done by outside agitators. Not all, but most. As far as the looters, I say to those that haven’t or wouldn’t do such a thing, be thankful you’re in a position to never have to consider doing anything like that. All in all it made me happy to be able to do the job that I do as a firefighter. We don’t ask questions, we just help. We don’t worry about race, who started the fire — we are there to put it out, not worry about someone’s skin color. We are there to save as many lives and as much property as we can. No matter how dark things got, we had people depending on us, and we never forgot that. We answered the call every time.
Zenger: Did you see any good come from the situation?
Glenn: A lot of good came from it. A lot of people stepped up and showed that humanity matters. I saw a lot of people who had no connection to the black experience show love because they felt the human element of it. They understood that no one deserved the treatment that Mr. Floyd received. This has been a problem for too long and because you’re not directly affected by it, to be silent was to be complicit.
Zenger: Powerful stuff, brother. Switching gears, how does family life fit into your busy days?
Glenn: I have three kids and a baby girl due to come July 19. My 6-year-old boy, Quentin, and my 13-year-old girl, Addison, come with me to the gym a lot. I teach kids jiu jitsu, so they do that a lot with me. With Quentin being in school and Addison is 13 now, she takes care of herself for the most part, and Micah will be 2 in August, he’s in daycare. So, I get a lot of my training done in the mornings. Then I can come home, clean up, do a project around the house and make dinner. It’s not much sleep, but it works. I just gotta prioritize, that’s all.
Zenger: Your journey has led you all over the world. What has that been like for you?
Glenn: I guess I haven’t really thought about it. I’m just thankful and grateful that I have been blessed with this opportunity. Being me and being free is the best thing that I can be. It gives me that everyday motivation to keep going. Coming from Chicago to where I’m at now, there is still so much more that I can achieve, so why not explore it? Why not keep going? I want to see where this ends up. I’ll continue to work hard, keep my head down and be humble, be good to people and good things will happen.
Zenger: You are a true inspiration.Continue to be a great person with great intentions, and I will always be rooting for you, brother. Anything you want to add?
Glenn: I do want to mention how you and I got hooked up: It was through my friend, Aaron Russell. I deployed with him. I had just started amateur fighting in Minnesota, and he told me, “My classmate Percy been interviewing fighters. He’s really into boxing.” So I went on Facebook and I added you. Then, I looked at your first interview. I can’t remember exactly who it was with, but it was right around that time [Floyd] Mayweather was fighting Shane Mosely and you interviewed somebody on the undercard. I looked at some of your other interviews, and I was like, “Yeah, there’s no way in hell I’m ever going to talk to this dude. He is the real of the real and way out of my league.”
So when you hit me up to schedule this interview, that was a reflection moment for me. Because I’ll never forget that I was like, “Aaron didn’t know that I’m way under this dude’s league. I’m not there, and I don’t think I will be.” For that to come full circle, that means a lot to me. I appreciate you, man. That sums up my journey: I’ve come a long way, and still have a long way to go.
(Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Judith Isacoff)