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Kenny Florian Targeting April Return, Says He's the Man to Fight Pettis

It's been a rough couple of months for Kenny Florian. First, he lost his No. 1 contender fight with Gray Maynard, then he suffered a knee injury that knocked him out of a potential fight with Evan Dunham, and now, it appears the fighter he hoped to face upon his return has a bout scheduled that won't include him.

Late Monday night, Florian told MMA Fighting that he thought he should be the one to face Anthony Pettis in "Showtime's" UFC debut. Hours later, though, reports of a matchup between Pettis and Clay Guida surfaced, seemingly knocking that possibility out of the water.

But it's not all bad news for Florian, whose recovery from a knee injury has gone faster than expected, pushing his timetable for return to the cage as early as April or May. He was originally expected back in the summer.

Even with the good news, Florian's not exactly in a happy frame of mind. He's yet to receive clearance to begin any type of sparring or hard workouts -- that should come in a few weeks -- and the wait has the noted gym rat chomping at the bit to get back to training and fighting.

"I'm not enjoying it at all," he said. "I've been miserable. When I'm not training I'm miserable. I miss being on the mat. I miss sparring. I miss training. I miss learning and working on new things. That's why I've been at the last couple UFC events, I just miss it so much and I wanted to be around it. The only thing I've been able to do is watch video but I can't wait to get back in there and get back to my normal routine."

Florian was in Montreal preparing for a scheduled fight against Dunham when during a wrestling scramble, his leg got trapped and buckled inwards, tearing his MCL and meniscus and spraining his patella.

While he's back to regular function on his knee when it comes to everyday tasks, he's still waiting for the go-ahead to get back to training, but his doctors have told him that is imminent, and that has Florian dreaming about stepping back into the octagon.
I think if [Pettis] wants to establish himself as a top lightweight, I think I've done a lot more than a lot of the guys out there.
-- Kenny Florian

Florian says his desire to fight Pettis is nothing personal, but believes he's the best matchup for the young lightweight to prove he truly deserves to be considered among the UFC's elite, a better matchup than even one against rumored opponent Clay Guida.

"I think if he wants to establish himself as a top lightweight, I think I've done a lot more than a lot of the guys out there," said Florian, who beat Guida by rear-naked choke in Dec. 2009. "Gray Maynard beat me, obviously, but I still think I'm the third guy in the division. What better way to get to the top than a win over me?

"I think with me, you're going to get an exciting fight everywhere," Florian continued. "Clay, you pretty much know just his style, he's going to try to ground-and-pound and use his wrestling to defeat Pettis. I'm going to do it on the feet, on the ground, all over the octagon at a high level, whatever it takes. It's going to be an exciting fight everywhere, a little bit more unpredictable."

Florian (14-5) is coming off the previously mentioned loss to Maynard at UFC 118, a defeat that led UFC president Dana White to say he believes Florian "chokes in big fights."

He says he's not sure he's yet over the loss, and was most disappointed by the fact it wasn't a great fight. The performance taught him a lesson, in that perhaps he had become too analytical in his preparation and needs to rely more on his instinctive ability.

White's words stung, and it motivates him to ask for a big fight and prove his worth against a big name, whether it's against Pettis, perhaps the winner of the upcoming Dunham-Melvin Guillard match, or any other surging lightweight.

"I want a big fight, I want a big opponent, I want a big name, a big event," he said. "I know what I'm capable of and what I've done in the past. You can't rate someone on one fight. S--- happens out there, to be blunt. For me, I want to go out there and redeem myself. That's what it comes down to. What Dana said is motivating to me. I want to show the world what I'm about and lay it on the line. Go back to my roots. Be aggressive, not so analytical and strategic. I just want to go out there and fight. That's what I want to get back to. I want to come back with vengeance."

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