(Photo courtesy of Sherdog)
By Elias Cepeda for CagePotato.com
Despite putting together perhaps his most impressive win ever at UFC 107, a second round submission of Clay Guida, Kenny Florian isn’t taking a break just yet. In fact, the lightweight contender tells CagePotato that he wants to fight again within three months.
“I want to get back in there within the next few months. I want to fight every three to four months. That’s when I’m at my best, that’s how I stay healthy and sharp. That’s the best time frame for me,” he says.
Florian (12-4) has yet to get word from his UFC bosses as to what is next for him and when, but hopes to hear something shortly and assumes he’ll be a part of the UFC’s first event in the state of Massachusetts. Florian is a Massachusetts native and resident and after professional MMA became legal and regulated there late last month, an August UFC card in the Boston area has been strongly rumored.
“I have heard nothing from the UFC as of right now but I’m hoping in the next couple weeks to find out. Right now I’m sure they are planning something for me for Boston but I’d like to do something before that and then fight again then. I’m getting right back into training [today] and will be plugging away the next couple of weeks until I hear a date,” Florian says.
Whenever he does get back in the Octagon, Florian says he wants to take on other top contenders in order to put together another title run like he did when he won six consecutive fights and stayed undefeated for over two years before losing to champion BJ Penn last August. “I want the quickest road back to the title,” he says.
If Florian does work his way back to a third title shot he is confident that he’ll be ready to become champion, in large part because of his new coaches and training partners. After becoming the clear number one lightweight title contender while working with coaches like Mark Dellagrote and strength and conditioning guru Kevin Kearns, Florian has switched things up by taking on welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre’s coaches Firas Zahabi (striking/MMA) and Jonathon Chaimberg (conditioning), while keeping boxing coach Peter Welch and his brother Keith around.
“If I had kept training the way I was before, I may have already hit my ceiling but working with Firas, I don’t know what my ceiling of potential is,” Florian says.
“Firas has really improved my striking game and gave me the confidence to do what I needed to do. He is teaching me the proper style for MMA and I’m very, very impressed every time I work with him. We are just scratching the surface because he wanted to add a few things here and there from the way to train to drills and style of striking. I am still adapting to it, definitely.”
Florian’s St. Pierre connection also brought him to the Montreal Wrestling Club, home to Olympic and World champions and the UFC’s 170-pound champion, who has trained there the last several years to become arguably the best wrestler in MMA. Florian’s wrestling looked much improved against Guida, so it’s obvious that the work at the MWC has paid off, but day one on those vaunted mats was pretty intimidating for the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt.
“For me, it kind of felt like a fish out of water,” Florian admits. “I had been to wrestling practices before but it was still a little intimidating. I recognized some faces and Georges would tell me what this guy and that guy had done. My goal was to try not to be the idiot out there. I didn’t even know how to drill moves as far as wrestling goes or the etiquette so I just tried to watch and learn. I didn’t want to screw up. When we went to free wrestle I felt more comfortable because I had done that before, of course I got killed though.”
Despite being a foreigner and having no formal wrestling background, Florian says that the wrestlers went out of their way to teach and support him. “I thought they’d turn their nose up at me but I can’t tell you how many guys went out of their way to help me. They were awesome. I think they saw that I was passionate about learning wrestling and that I had a humble attitude. I appreciated the beauty of wrestling and their technique. They had a lot of Russian coaches and their style is different and such a technical one. And they do watch MMA so they wanted to help me. Plus I was hanging out with Georges so much and they love him.”
In addition to getting the best of wrestling battles inside the cage against accomplished former Division I NCAA wrestlers, St. Pierre was set to vie for a spot on the Canadian national wrestling team for the ’08 Olympic Games before a short notice UFC title fight took him out of the running.
Now there are rumors that St. Pierre will go for a slot at the ’12 games. From what Florian has seen and heard from some of the world’s top wrestlers, St. Pierre may just have the ability to get it done.
“I tell you, it’s amazing,” Florian says of GSP’s wrestling. “When you see it then you’ll believe it. He wrestles with world class guys and gives them all they can handle. As far as guys in his weight class, he can hang with anybody. It’s gotten to the point where he makes it a serious wrestling match with whoever he goes with. Whatever their credentials are, when Georges gets a hold you he’s taking you down. I’m no wrestling expert but based on what I’ve heard from the other wrestlers, he could very well [make the Olympics]. They give him a good shot."
Though there has been much talk of Florian training with St. Pierre, not many fans know how the two fighters began their working relationship. They actually first met as opponents of sorts.
“It’s funny because I first met Georges when he cornered Sam Stout when Sam fought me (in 2006). I got a chance to talk to Georges in Vegas then and he was just a great guy. He was always someone I wanted to train with. I try to train with as many people as possible and I finally had the opportunity to do it a few times before the BJ Penn fight. With him and Firas and a lot of the guys I got to spar with, it was just amazing. But I did it for only about 10-14 days total. After the fight with Penn I knew that Firas was the guy to train with, and to have training partners like GSP and other guys, I couldn’t pass it up,” Florian explains.
Florian, like St. Pierre, is one of the few fighters that seem to get better in between each and every fight and he’s still relatively new to the game as a veteran of just over six years. But the flip side is that at 33 years old, he is also the oldest lightweight contender in the UFC.
From a skill perspective, it seems that there is no limit to how good Florian can become but fans have to wonder if he will have enough time to really hit his potential. For his part, Florian says he doesn’t feel a sense of urgency based on his age.
“It’s funny because I used to have that in my head — that I’d have to be able to know this by this age — but the more I learn and train that feeling is so much further away. I have another solid five years in the game in terms of hitting my physical and technical peak. I don’t know if I’ll end up getting those five years but I do know that there is a lot more to learn and that people haven’t seen anything of what I can do yet.”