But sometimes home isn't all it's cracked up to be. Not when every local media outlet wants a piece of you and every person who ever sat next to in a high school geometry class wants you to get them a ticket to the fights.
That's the situation Boston native Kenny Florian is in this week. On Saturday night at UFC 118 he takes on Gray Maynard in a fight to determine who will get the next crack at the UFC lightweight title, and he does it in front of a hometown crowd that will place its hopes and expectations for a local victory onto his narrow shoulders.
"It can be a little distracting," Florian told MMA Fighting. "But it's stuff I've dealt with before. People want you to get them tickets to every fight. You have to win every fight. You always have your fans supporting you and people in your corner expecting you to do well. That's just how it is."
For Florian, the fact that the fight is in his hometown is one of many reasons why the bout with Maynard is a pivotal one for his career. He's 34 years old, about to embark on his fifteenth fight with the UFC, and he's 0-2 in title shots. If Florian is to ever become a UFC champion, he's rapidly approaching the now-or-never point.
"There's never a good time to lose, but yeah, now is the time for me," said Florian. "I have to go on my run now, because I feel like I'm best prepared for it now. I feel like my style is way more conducive to being successful in this division than it's ever been. I changed my style so I could beat everybody, not so I could beat most people."
The aspect of Florian's game that will most likely be tested early and often on Saturday is his wrestling. Maynard may have vastly improved his boxing in the recent years, but he's made a career out of taking opponents down and keeping them there.
That's part of the reason he's won his last six fights via decision. The fact that he has yet to lose a fight in a little more than four years as a pro also tells you something about how good he is at executing that somewhat predictable game plan.
But Florian isn't worried. Not after he spent much of his training camp going head-to-head with UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, who's a pretty decent wrestler himself.
"Especially since the B.J Penn fight, having worked with Georges St. Pierre on a regular basis, that helps a lot," Florian said. "I have extreme doubt that Gray Maynard is going to be a better or bigger or stronger or faster wrestler than GSP. Every sparring partner I had for this fight, MMA-wise and wrestling-wise, was a 170-pounder. GSP is walking around at about 200 pounds right now. The other guys I'm working with are about 190, 195, so I'm ready for a strong welterweight, not just a strong lightweight."
In preparing for Maynard, Florian said, he couldn't afford to just focus on stopping the takedown or getting back to his feet. With only five months between his last fight against Takanori Gomi and this number one contender bout, it's not as if he could become a significantly better wrestler simply by spending more time on it in the gym, possibly at the expense of his other skills.
"If I was to do it that way, camp to camp, I'd never really get any better. If I said, well, I've got to improve my wrestling for Gray Maynard, it wouldn't happen. I wouldn't be ready and I wouldn't be prepared. Gray Maynard may be such a good wrestler that he takes me down repeatedly like the Sean Sherk fight. I don't believe that to be true, but your training happens way before the fight. Your fundamentals and your base, that needs to happen years in advance, and many fights in advance."
If Florian can get past Maynard, he'll earn his third chance to fight for the UFC lightweight title. Two of his four career losses have came in 155-pound title fights, leading UFC president Dana White to suggest that Florian has some sort of mental block that prevents him from winning championship bouts.
Florian insists that's not the case, although he admits that perhaps he put too much pressure on himself and was too obsessive about his training when he took on former lightweight champ Penn.
"I was devastated after that fight," said Florian. "Just devastated. I can't describe that feeling."
He does know that he never wants to feel that again, but at the same time he can't allow himself to live in fear of failure. Florian's solution, he said, is to think of his body as a shell that needs to be constantly upgraded. He tries to remove ego from the equation altogether so as to avoid feeling sorry for himself. The end result, according to Florian, is a fighter who's constantly evolving.
"At the end of the day, if you truly love what you're doing and that's why you're doing this, there's only one way to look and that's up. There's only one way to think, and that's positive. I wouldn't be the fighter I am today without that, and I expect even more changes. I'm just scratching the surface."
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