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UFC Fight Night Interview: Kenny Florian

These days, Kenny Florian is a household MMA name. Due to this, it's sometimes hard to remember that he's only been competing in mixed martial arts events for a little over five years now. And five years doesn't seem like much when compared to the nearly nine years of professional MMA experience his well- rounded UFC Fight Night 11 opponent, Din Thomas, brings.

Then again, length of MMA experience only means so much, especially when you're talking about a fighter like Kenny Florian who achieved his BJJ black belt way back in 2003 and has been training with famed Muay Thai coach Mark DellaGrotte for over three years now. Further, he's put in time training with the likes of Greco- Roman expert Darryl Gholar, Cuban Wrestling National Team coach Alejo Morales, and, of course, BJJ black belt Robert Maia.

Kenny Florian has certainly utilized his time well. After all, he wouldn't have been able to run with the opportunity that TUF 1 gave him if it were not for some of the most diverse skills in the lightweight division. So how will it all come together when he takes on the ultra experienced Din Thomas? How has training been going?

Florian: Going excellent. I've been doing all my training here in Boston. I've been preparing here with the team that I always train with and haven't done any traveling. Usually, I travel for fights, but I've just been staying put here in Boston. If you could, name some of the guys you've been training with?

Florian: Patrick Cote and Jonathan Goulet were in town training for their fights, so I did some work with them. Marcus Davis, I did a lot of training with him as well. My brother Keith. Of course, Mark Dellagrotti. . . And my other brother, Kirk.

We've got a bunch of guys that have been training with me. It's been great; we've had some great training sessions. I'm in the final week of training right now. (So) now it's kind of taper mode. Just relax and watch the weight until the fight. All the hard work is done.

So, this is a good time, bro. Marcus Davis looked great in his last fight, by the way.

Florian: Thank God he came back from that kick. That was intense. The round of the night for sure.

Florian: Yeah, absolutely. You've seemed, at least to me, to be physically stronger in the bouts since Sean Sherk. Do you feel that's true, and if so has that been a point of emphasis in training?

Florian: Absolutely. One of the things I really did was start to train like a professional athlete after that fight. I was injured for that year; my back was really bad. Just doing regular things and walking around was very painful? even lying down.

So I knew that I really had to do something drastic about getting my back stronger and getting my whole body stronger. I hired a strength and conditioning coach and met with him two weeks after the Sherk fight. (From there) I was training every single day. And it just improved my overall strength tremendously and the back injury went away.

Strengthening of the back, strengthening of the core just made me a better fighter and I got to do the things that I used to be able to do. That's been the model ever since the Sherk fight. There is no offseason. . . That's part of the reason why I took this fight with Din Thomas. I am (always) in shape and was ready to go. Out of the six wins you have? according to all have ended via stoppage. Along with this, you're known as a fighter that's not content to simply eek out a decision. Fans and media love that kind of thing. How does it feel to be known as a guy like that, one that comes in trying to finish fights?

Florian: It's always been my mentality, since the moment I started training in Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu. Almost to a fault (actually) because that was the only thing on my mind, to submit my opponent. I think that shows the ultimate in skill.

No one wants to see a judges' decision. We've seen it recently with the Bisping- Hamill fight. You never want to put your destiny in the hands of judges. I think that's what's going to entertain fans (stoppages), so that's what I train for. My intent is always to finish my opponents with a knockout or submission. Din Thomas has a lot of MMA experience and is an interesting opponent because, at least in my mind, he is similar to you in that he is a well- rounded fighter. Without giving up too much of your game plan, is there an aspect of fighting where you feel that you have a clear advantage over him?

Florian: I think we are very similar, as you said. (Still), I believe and hope that I will show that I have the advantage everywhere. I think that I am more of a diverse striker, whereas I believe he basically utilizes a boxing style of striking. The majority of his business comes off of his jab, his one- two combination and his jab. I think I bring a little bit more to the table as far as the striking department. I like to kick; I like to knee; I like to punch; I like to elbow and mix it up in the clinch. In that regard, I'm a little bit different.

I think that the difference in this fight is going to be the will of the fighter, though. Who wants this more? And I believe I want this fight more. I think I'm hungrier right now, and that's going to be the difference ultimately. . . Obviously, that's a factor in all fights. But when you get fighters who are very close in skill? extremely even? that's always going to be the difference, the mental game that they bring into the ring. You spoke of your diverse striking, and you're certainly known for having some killer elbows. After a fight with Evan Tanner that was stopped due to some devastating elbows by his opponent, David Loiseau, Loiseau was asked how he'd gotten so good at using his elbows. He said the reason was that he worked them everyday. Is that something you do?

Florian: Absolutely. . . Even in Thailand it's almost a dying art. Not many people are training elbows as much nowadays. That's a technique that's allowed. Why not work it? It's something that we drill a lot. We spar with elbows. And we work elbows from all different positions.

It's something that needs to be practiced everyday if you want to be good at it. You've gone on record as saying that you want to beat all the contenders so that when you get another shot at the belt there's no argument against you. If you win this fight against Thomas, who are some of the other fighters that may be in the back of your mind? I know you're concentrating on this fight, but who might you have to go through to achieve the status you desire?

Florian: That's exactly right. That's what I hope to do. Each fight I want to gain more and more respect. I want to be that number one contender without a doubt. I want to fight guys like Guida: He's very well respected and is one of the top guys. Roger Huerta is certainly up there (too). Joe Stevenson, he's probably going to be the next guy to get a shot. As long as Sherk doesn't get through his appeal, he'll probably be fighting B.J. Penn. Then there's the winner of Tavares and Griffin.

I think those are the main players right now in the 155 pound division. I'd love the opportunity to take those guys out one at a time and really show that I'm the number one contender without a doubt. I think the fans would appreciate that. I believe that's the best way to get a shot at the title and have no doubt in anybody's mind that you deserve it. I would definitely love to gain that respect not only from the fans but also the MMA experts who are doing the polls. I would love to see myself in those top rankings of the best 155ers in the world. You have a degree in communications. Any thought of maybe commentating when your fighting career is over like Bas Rutten and Randy Couture have chosen to?

Florian: I would love that. That would be an absolute dream job. I really enjoy doing commentating for fights. I watch fights all the time and I love analyzing fights. It's something I have a background in and I would love to have the opportunity to do something with Zuffa in the future. You're clearly an intelligent guy. You come off that way when you're speaking on TV and have the education to prove it. There are a lot of people in mixed martial arts that? and maybe outsiders wouldn't realize this? have good educations and are quite intelligent people. What do you think lures introspective, thinking kinds of people into this game?

Florian: I think it's the overall game. It's the ability to not only work on weaknesses and work on technical skills? which there are so many of? but it's the strategy of it, the mental game. Analyzing your opponent, analyzing yourself? your own strengths and weaknesses? and coming up with a game plan and executing it. There's a tremendous amount of skill and strategy that goes on. I know that's what is really intriguing to me. I think for a lot of the fans and the fighters, they know how much work goes into it.

One little mistake that your opponent makes could be the difference. You need to be able to analyze that along with your team. It definitely takes a tremendous amount of intelligence, strategy, and skill. It's just a work in progress, there's always something to work on and improve upon and that's what makes going to the gym everyday so exciting for me. Any prediction for the fight?

Florian: I think I'm going to finish Din in the second round. That's my opinion. I think Din's a tremendous fighter. But I think I'm going to bring a certain intensity and skill to this fight that people haven't seen before. I hope Din is healthy and at his best. I'm in this game to fight the best, and Din's certainly one of those guys. I'm looking forward to a great challenge from him. Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk with me. Good luck in the fight.

Florian: Thanks so much, Bob. Much appreciated and anytime, my pleasure.