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Exclusive Interview: Kenny Florian


(Whose house? KenFlo’s house.)

As MMA fighters go, Kenny Florian is as intelligent and articulate a guy as you can hope to find. He’s also a workaholic and an ever-evolving bad-ass in the cage, and his next test against the formidable Roger Huerta should answer any lingering questions as to who deserves to be the UFC’s top lightweight contender. Whether B.J. Penn will stick around to defend his 155-pound title, well, that’s another issue altogether.

In this exclusive interview with KenFlo we discuss training strategies, Roger Huerta’s apparent dissatisfaction with the UFC, being an ESPN MMA analyst, and more.

CagePotato.com: Hey Kenny, thanks for talking with me. How has your training for this fight been going?

Everything’s been going really well. My training camp was awesome. I really didn’t take too much time off. After the Lauzon fight I think I was back in the gym the following week and I wasn’t completely pleased, technically speaking, with my performance, so I wanted to get right back in the gym and improve on those things. With all the commitments I had before this fight, the traveling and all that, I’m glad I got a jump on it early.

What were you displeased with about your performance against Lauzon?

Joe Lauzon just shouldn’t have taken me down like he did. That was the main thing, was the wrestling angle of it. I just wanted to get back and get my hands on a quality wrestling coach so I could really improve in that area. It’s one thing to be able to do it in training, but it needs to be second nature in order for you to use it when you need it in a fight. So I found a great wrestling coach who’s just been a phenomenal addition to my team.

I’ve just been working on a lot of the fundamentals of wrestling, both defensively and offensively, and working on making sure I’m doing things right technically. With wrestling in particular you get a lot of people who will tell you ‘Oh, you should do it this way or that way,’ but having a world class guy to show you this is the way it should be done and here’s why, it gets it into your muscle memory and makes you a stronger fighter.

What do you think Roger Huerta’s greatest strength is as a fighter?

I think it’s his heart. He’ll never quit. We saw that in his last fight against Clay Guida when he was losing the fight. It can be really easy for a fighter to quit in a situation like that. A real fighter is the guy who’s getting beat up and still never loses his will to win. Roger has showed that he’s that kind of guy. He’s a tough, tough fighter and he’s got tremendous heart.

This is being billed as a number one contender match, but with all the talk about B.J. Penn going back up to welterweight to fight Georges St. Pierre, it seems like the winner may not get that title shot any time soon. Does that kind of talk make you feel like B.J. might be overlooking the rest of the lightweight division?

It’s possible that B.J. and other people are overlooking me. Anything can happen in MMA and I honestly don’t know if B.J. will stick around at lightweight or not. My concern is winning this fight and continuing to fight and beat the best guys. That’s what I want. The belt is obviously something I want too, and I think if I continue to beat the best guys that the opportunity will come.

But B.J. is pretty much the consensus pick as the world’s number one lightweight, so isn’t that the fight that you need to get in order to feel like you’ve fought the best?

Oh, yeah. Definitely. B.J. has proven it. I think his skills right now and the way that he’s training, he’s showing that he’s not only one of the best lightweights but one of the best pound-for-pound, so he deserves that.

Roger Huerta created some waves recently talking about his dissatisfaction with how the UFC has treated him, saying he doesn’t necessarily care if he keeps fighting for them or if it’s for someone else. What’s your take on that? How do you feel about the way the UFC treats its fighters?

You know what, the UFC has always taken real good care of me and I’m very happy to be where I am. I was fighting in worse conditions than Roger probably was or is when I first came into the UFC with my original “Ultimate Fighter” contract, but it’s like any job. You have to go in there and prove yourself. You don’t start off as CEO. You have to work your way up.

The UFC is in a position now where they can pay their fighters better and I think that’s only going to improve and I’ve always been happy with the way they’ve treated me. This is where I started and I’d love to finish here. Every fighter’s experience is different, though. People will be in your ear and tell you things about who’s getting paid what, and of course everyone always wants to get paid more. But I can’t speak for Roger. Obviously he’s disappointed, so I guess we’ll see what happens.

When fighters talk about a lack of respect from the UFC, is respect really just a synonym for money? Or is there a certain attitude the UFC has towards some guys that is abrasive?

I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s an attitude, really. There are some demands that you need to meet as far as interviews and media and appearances, and that can be overwhelming. But I guess it’s not much different than the NFL and Major League Baseball in that regard. People don’t realize how much we do outside of the gym and outside of the fight game. There’s a lot to it and it can be difficult managing that.

But, you know, you can always say no. You don’t have to do the PR stuff. But it’s a double-edged sword. The PR is as much for you as it is for the UFC. For Roger, it’s definitely helped get his name out there, so where would he be without the PR? Where would he be without the marketing? It’s helped him just like it’s helped me.

Speaking of PR and time commitments, doing “MMA Live” on ESPN must take some time away from your training. Is that a difficult thing to work around?

It is, definitely. The first few days before the show I spend reading up on fighters, making sure I’ve seen all the fights from over the weekend and making sure I’ve done my research on the fighters coming up. I’ll get up around four in the morning and be out the door by a quarter to five to make the two-hour drive to Bristol, Connecticut and I’m there pretty much all day and then I drive back and still have to train.

It can be brutal, but it’s given me more focus. I know I have to be that much more specific with everything. I knew since I was doing more traveling I had to be on top of my nutrition. If I couldn’t train as much, I was going to eat as perfectly as possible and then really make the most out of my training time when I was in the gym. It gave me a laser-like focus in my training.

Is it hard to be an analyst of the sport and an active fighter at the same time?

Yeah, it’s tough. First, because I know a lot of the fighters. At times you have to be critical and really give your opinion, and still being in the fight game it can be tricky. But I love the job, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s what I went to school for so hopefully we can take it to the next level and get on TV some time next year.

How do you think it will be to go back to the show doing your analyst job after this fight, whether you win or lose?

It could be tricky, I guess trickier if I lost. You just have to base it on your fight experience and approach it on a technical level, the way you would analyzing someone else’s fight.

How are you planning on approaching this fight with Roger? You’ve said he doesn’t quit, so how will that change your game plan?

Every time I approach a fight there are times when I know that I can push the pace and this guy’s going to gas. With the Lauzon fight I knew he was going to give up after a little while and I knew he couldn’t keep that pace. But against Huerta that’s not going to be the case. It’s just going to be technique versus technique, and I think I have the edge there.

I know what my cardio is about. I know what my heart is about. I’m not going to gas. I’m not going to give up. It’s going to come down to whose skills are better, who did the little things in training, who crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s. I know I’ve done my work and I have the skills to take advantage of Roger’s weaknesses. I can’t wait. I feel like a get my reward on August 9th.

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Unbelievable- August 6, 2008 at 11:46 am
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Vrax Says:

August 6th, 2008 at 1:46 pm
Dear Kenny,
If you’re delusional enough to think he was actually losing against Guida, you’re going to get killed on Saturday.
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Clay Guida was handing him is ass you fool....and I am a Huerto fan! Watch it as many times as you want but try opening your eyes next time you tool!!!-
sol- August 6, 2008 at 10:36 am
"I would have paid somewhere in the neighborhood of 10gs. let him prove himself if he wants the 250gs".

Yeah, because the guy who singlehandedly bumped up the buys on that card to epic proportions deserves 10gs. He may be inexperienced but if he werent on that card it hardly would have sold. Considering the amount of revenue that guy generates 250gs is actually quite cheap.
goo- August 6, 2008 at 9:55 am
''I would have paid somewhere in the neighborhood of 10gs. let him prove himself if he wants the 250gs''

Then we all could've had the fun of imagining what it would be like if Brock Lesnar fought in the UFC.
Ineffable Jeff- August 6, 2008 at 9:28 am
We have a lot of jail house poets in here.

I cannot figure out how someone can like BJ Penn and hate Roger Huerta. Makes no sense to me. I am excited about this fight. It may be the best fight in UFC history...barring a GSP-Anderson fight which would break PPV records in epic proportions.
Boneman- August 6, 2008 at 3:49 am
>> The guy who is awesome ....Sucks KFLO's dick!
The guy who is awesome- August 6, 2008 at 1:48 am
I love to watch this guy fight! I'm such a fan of all the intelligent, non-meatheads like Florian.
Anonymous- August 5, 2008 at 11:58 pm
250gs for his first fight. pretty nice deal. i guess they had to pony up because of his "potential" as a MMA fighter and his popularity, still i would never pay Lesnar that much for his first UFC fight.

I would have paid somewhere in the neighborhood of 10gs. let him prove himself if he wants the 250gs
Anonymous- August 5, 2008 at 11:50 pm
"You don’t start off as CEO. You have to work your way up"

Tell that to Brock Lesnar. It looks to me like Dana was giving him BJs 24/7
tallsforeverybody- August 5, 2008 at 9:29 pm
This has the makings of a great fight. I think Kenny will win because his defense is so weirdly effective and he can take a lot of punishment if needed. I think he subs Huerta.

I sincerely hope if/when he finishes he doesn't have to run around the ring yelling "I finish fights", that was just plain awkward.
Drew- August 5, 2008 at 8:35 pm
I'm hoping for a 2.9 round war. Fuck a decision. Last minute finishes are the best. And as Kenny says, "I finish fights!"
Vrax- August 5, 2008 at 7:46 pm
Dear Kenny,
If you're delusional enough to think he was actually losing against Guida, you're going to get killed on Saturday. That was a rope-a-dope, plain and simple. Re-watch that footage, Roger made Clay waste his energy and then tore him up in the third. Don't let that happen on Saturday. If you look at it form that perspective you can be one to sucker roger in and because you have some of the best BJJ in the 155lb decision I think you can get a submission out of it.

Then again, maybe you know all this and that's why you mention the Guida fight in every interview, so Roger will get his hopes up, if so? Kudos on a well-thought out gameplan.

Good luck either way.
Fedor Emelianenko DVD instructional- August 5, 2008 at 7:04 pm
"What do you think Roger Huerta’s greatest strength is as a fighter?

I think it’s his heart. He’ll never quit."

Kenny has got that one on the button. Love him or hate him, no one can deny the fact that "El Matador" has one of the biggest hearts in the game today.
Boneman- August 5, 2008 at 6:34 pm
Hey "El Matador"..!!

You mess with the bull....and you just might get the horns!
mmmiles- August 5, 2008 at 6:28 pm
I would put my money on KenFlo, but Huerta is a great fighter, and makes great fights. 2 excellent matches coming this Saturday, no matter who you support they are big fights!
Anonymous- August 5, 2008 at 5:43 pm
great interview. so psyched for this fight
Grammar Nazi- August 5, 2008 at 5:43 pm
"Whose".
"'Whose' house".
Shagen- August 5, 2008 at 5:23 pm
I'll be there too, probably rooting for Huerta though! I like both of these guys, but Huerta is a MN guy now. I just hope it doesn't end because of a bad cut from a "hellbow".
Ahhhhh the big fan title- August 5, 2008 at 5:19 pm
I always wonder how someone earns the "biggest fan" title or better yet, why they would even want it. I understand rooting for someone, but claiming that you idolize someone more than anyone else is basically trying to claiming the least interesting past time ever. Is there a system to this title, like a lameometer, the dueshen scale or maybe it is scaled by the inverse level of worth while life points you have earned?
L Grant- August 5, 2008 at 5:19 pm
I think it's going to be an excellent fight. Huerta seems to have been lucky in a few fights, and Florian just seems to improve with every match he has. I think we'll see an improvement from Huerta due to his training with GSP, and I think Florian has the focus to build on his weaknesses.
This could be the best we've seen from both fighters, and it should result in an incredible match.
I just don't see how it could disappoint. Both guys want to finish, and fight to finish, even when it goes to decision it's always been an exciting one.
gracies suck ass- August 5, 2008 at 5:18 pm
cool interview, I also can't wait for this fight, should be a barn burner! KenFlo by Hellbow! Roger better get a nice pair of post fight sunglasses cause man he's gonna be fucked up.
MrFeexit- August 5, 2008 at 4:55 pm
I will be there to see this fight! I am as jacked as I can be! K Flo has continued to up his game every time he enters the cage. K Flo...if you are reading this...I will be the guy yelling the loudest for you on Saturday! Oh...maybe my daughters boyfriend Wade will yell louder...he scored the tickets and is K Flo's biggest fan.
ruckus- August 5, 2008 at 4:48 pm
man i'm excited for this... i really hope it will be the 3 round war that its being billed as.
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