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Kenny Florian Makes Featherweight Debut at UFC 131

Former top lightweight contender Kenny Florian will make his featherweight debut at UFC 131.

Florian said earlier this month he would be dropping down to featherweight, and his first test will come against Diego Nunes. Florian made the announcement on ESPN's "MMA Live" late Friday night. As he did Friday, Florian often serves as co-host of the show.

"It's a new challenge," Florian said of the drop in divisions. "I've never been afraid of a new challenge. I see it as an exciting opportunity to possibly face what in my opinion is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, which is Jose Aldo. He's a tremendous fighter and I have a lot of respect for that guy. (But) I still have an opponent before I get there."

Florian (14-5, 11-4 UFC) last fought at UFC 118 in Boston in August, a card he had long lobbied for as a native and resident of Massachusetts. But he was dominated by Gray Maynard, who took him down five times in the fight and won 30-27 unanimous sweep of the scorecards – earning a shot at Frankie Edgar's lightweight title in the process.

Florian was expected to return at UFC 126 earlier this month against Evan Dunham. That bout was moved to the promotion's Fight for the Troops 2 card at Fort Hood, Texas, last month. But in December, Florian pulled out of the fight with a knee injury. Consequently, his fight with Nunes in June will be his first in nearly 10 months.

Amazingly, this will be Florian's fourth weight class in the UFC. He competed on the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter" as a middleweight, losing in that division's finale to Diego Sanchez. He dropped to welterweight for wins against Alex Karalexis and Kit Cope later in 2005, then moved to lightweight for a win over Sam Stout in 2006.

At UFC 64, after starting his UFC career 3-1, he fought Sean Sherk for the then-vacant lightweight title. Though Florian did some damage to Sherk's face with elbow strikes, he lost 50-45, 49-46, 49-46. But Florian would get another shot at the lightweight belt. After going unbeaten through 2007 and 2008 – 6-0 with five finishes – Florian got a shot at BJ Penn's belt at UFC 101. That, too, was not meant to be; Penn finished the fight with a fourth-round rear naked choke.

Nunes (16-1, 1-0 UFC) is coming off a split decision win over former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown at UFC 125 last month, part of a three-fight winning streak. Nunes, a Brazilian, fought exclusively in his home country before signing with the WEC in 2008. He went 4-1 with the promotion – all decisions – before moving to the UFC as part of last fall's merger.

Florian said he's excited to make the drop to featherweight, and for his first test against Nunes.

"There's a lot of excitement in that division," Florian said. "Those guys are very exciting fighters – they always bring it every time and I'm excited to be a part of that division. ... (Nunes) is a tremendous Top 10 145er – an awesome striker, awesome fighter."

Though not yet made official by the UFC, UFC 131 is expected to take place June 11 at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The pay-per-view will be headlined by a heavyweight fight between former champion Brock Lesnar and Junior dos Santos, currently working as opposing coaches on the upcoming 13th season of "The Ultimate Fighter." That show, which will premiere next month on Spike, is being taped in Las Vegas.

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