MMA Fighter Challenges People to Punch Him in the Face, Everyone Fails

Exclusive: Kenny Florian Reflects on Victory Over Gomi and the Elusive Lightweight Title


(Photo courtesy of MMAWeekly.)

By CagePotato contributor Elias Cepeda

Kenny Florian‘s domination of PRIDE legend Takanori Gomi at Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night 21 made a couple things perfectly clear: First, that Gomi can no longer hang with the division’s elite fighters. Also, that the constantly improving Florian is undoubtedly one of the very best 155-pounders in the world. In this exclusive interview, Ken-Flo takes us through his fight with the Fireball Kid, and discusses life in the UFC’s lightweight division, where the championship belt continues to lie maddeningly out of reach…

*****

CAGEPOTATO.COM: Very early on in your fight against Gomi, you began to get the better of him standing up. Soon you began dancing around, leaning over, dropping your hands. Was that just one of those things where you got so comfortable that you got a bit cocky, or were you trying to goad him into doing something in particular?
FLORIAN: No, it’s part of a rhythm. It’s a calculated part of a boxing rhythm you try to get yourself into to make sure that I keep my head moving and I stay loose. It’s a swagger you need to have. It’s my way of making sure that there is no catching me when I’m moving, when I’m punching, and it has really helped me, not only in my training, but I think in the fight to have that looseness and relaxation. I’ve just been working on my boxing technique a lot and I’m glad I was able to show that.

In the third round, Gomi landed what appeared to be his cleanest punch of the fight. A few seconds later you took him down, and about a minute later you finished him by choke. Was your plan to basically stand with Gomi until he showed you something, then put him on his back to make things easier for yourself?
Well I knew that he would start to get fatigued. He was losing the first two rounds and I knew he’d start to get desperate and he’d start to get upright. That was going to allow me the space and ability to get to his legs. And that’s what happened. I had planned to take him down in the third round, I knew that was going to happen, I knew he was going to get tired and he’d be easier to finish. By that time I think he was worn out, mentally, physically, and just didn’t have an answer, was frustrated. And I saw a perfect opportunity to go for his legs. I took him down and tried to capitalize.

So it didn’t have to do with him finally landing a good shot?
Not at all. He was landing shots before that, you know. He was able to sting me in the second round. In the third round there was nothing that hurt me. Watching the video tape it looked like that was the cleanest shot but that wasn’t the one that hurt. In the second round, that hurt.


Before the fight you spoke about how you had watched Gomi fight for years and how he was a legend of the sport. How did it feel when you finally got your hands on him? What surprised you, and what was consistent with what you had imagined he’d be like to fight?
He still had a lot of power. But honestly I knew that he really hasn’t made drastic changes in his game. He hasn’t evolved with the times to where, I think, he should be doing. Whereas I think I have. I always try to stay ahead or be with what is current in MMA. I knew he was going to struggle, it was up to me to execute on that. Everyone always talks about his striking and everyone thought I would be at a disadvantage there so I took a lot of pride and pleasure in doing what he did best and still beating him at his own game. I don’t say that because I feel I’m this great striker or anything, I just feel I did my homework and Gomi didn’t do as much as me, and I think that’s why I was able to get the better of him. I’m glad I was able to show that stuff. It’s one of the things I’ve really been working on. I purposely did that and I purposely didn’t throw one elbow on the feet. I wanted to beat him at his own game so everyone wouldn’t be able to find an excuse. But, of course (laughs), his fans will always find excuses.

I don’t know how much of his pre-fight comments you saw. Gomi either has a bad translator or he’s pretty aloof. He seems to say little things here and there, like after he lost to Nick Diaz, where he sounds passive aggressive. Did you see his ufc.com video interview before the fight where they asked him what he thought about you and he said that he didn’t really know anything about you?
Exactly. Early on, I heard that same thing. Oh, I don’t know about him, I’m going to have to watch video tape, or something. It could be true, I don’t know. It could be the case or maybe he’s just saying that (laughs). I’m not sure. I was sure that he was going to change his tune from saying he was going to knock me out in the first round if he started watching the most current fights, you know?

In between rounds in your corner, there were moments where it appeared your cornermen were talking over one another, where things got a little heated between them and there was a question of who got to talk, when. Was that distracting for you, in terms of who should I be listening to and is that a problem?
I didn’t hear it at all, honestly. I didn’t hear any of that at all. I didn’t hear that stuff at all, amongst any of the coaches.

But in the moment, when you were getting instructions, it was all fine and clear in your head?
Oh yeah, yeah. There was nothing that wasn’t clear.

We know you traveled to Montreal a few times during camp to train with Firas Zahabi, but while you were home in Boston, did you mostly do boxing with Peter Welch, or did you also do some Muay Thai training?
I was doing mostly boxing but I was doing Muay Thai stuff as well. I have a buddy of mine who has a Muay Thai school in Boston and he was able to hold pads with me and work things that Firas had me work on in Montreal.

In 2006 you got your first title shot and lost a decision. Afterwards, you re-made yourself and last August got another title shot, losing to BJ Penn. The title contender picture in the lightweight division seems a little tricky in that, you seem to have set yourself apart from everyone else except the champion, but you’ve already gotten two title shots, the second coming not too long ago. You’ve finished two tough fighters in a row now since losing to Penn. In your mind, what do you have to do to earn another title shot?
Yeah, you know, I don’t know man. I don’t think there’s really anything I can say that’s going to get me the shot, or anything like that. Is it one fight, two fights, five fights? Honestly, I don’t know. I really don’t care. The more important thing in my mind is just getting better as a fighter and facing top competition and that’s it. I’ve kind of stopped worrying about that stuff. It’s nonsense in your head. Anytime you start looking too far ahead, thinking of scenarios, it’s a waste of time, I think.

In terms of how you match up, fighter to fighter, in your mind, if the UFC offered you a title shot as your very next bout, would you take it? Not speaking towards “deserving it,” but do you feel you are good enough to win the title?
Oh yeah. I’ve made drastic changes in the way that I train and the style that I use in the cage. I feel even back then [at UFC 101], I know that was a terrible performance. Even with the skills I had back then I know I can do much, much better. And I’m a much, much better fighter since then. But I hate when guys fight me and they talk about the things they can do against me to beat me. And I don’t want to be the same guy. I’d rather just go out there and prove it, and just go out there and fight. I feel that I’d rather do my talking in the cage.

Another tough guy, who, because of a loss and injuries, maybe isn’t on the short list for title shots but who you have a history with is Sean Sherk. Taking into consideration where you are in your career and where he is, would you fight him again if it wasn’t for a title shot or the title?
If he had maybe two wins in a row, then I’d say yes. But Sean Sherk just hasn’t produced. I’d say the same thing for BJ Penn if he was on a losing streak or had just fallen off. I don’t even know when the last time Sean Sherk has fought. I don’t run from anybody, I’ll fight anybody but I’m not sure that Sean has stepped up to the level of competition that the other guys are doing. Perhaps he’s fallen into the same mold as Takanori Gomi. It doesn’t make him a bad fighter. He’s still obviously a great fighter but just from what we’ve seen, we haven’t seen a Sean Sherk that is staying current with the evolution of MMA.

Who are you rooting for on April 10th in the lightweight championship fight between BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar?
Honestly I’m just rooting for a good fight. I want it to be a good fight between two exciting lightweights and both of those guys are. I have a lot of respect for Frankie Edgar. He’s a hard worker. Like myself, a lot of guys count him out all the time. He’s an undersized lightweight. I’d like to see him do well. Surely BJ Penn is going to be the favorite and may the best man win. Whoever wins, I’m cool with that and we’ll see what the future brings. I wish both those guys luck and hope that they fight up to the best of their abilities to put on a good fight. I say that both as a person in the division and as a fan.

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ctownhood- April 5, 2010 at 7:30 am
@LargeMidget
Oh yeah? Well KenFlo added me to his facebook favs and said I was his bff! So there! ;)
C-Bus Allstar- April 5, 2010 at 5:06 am
I will say that Kenflo is the toughest competitor out there to challenge BJ Penn's grasp on the title.

That said, Kenflo still doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell with Penn.


So.... the only logical step is to have Jose Aldo go up in weight to 155 and then make him fight BJ. Problem with that is, Aldo will smoke BJ on the feet, then get subbed.. :(
skeletor- April 4, 2010 at 7:16 am
@LargeMidget
Yeah, you're not really helping your case there.
fatbellyfrank- April 3, 2010 at 8:58 pm
starting to get a little bit creepy now, lets concentrate on Ken's fighting ability shall we
LargeMidget- April 3, 2010 at 7:20 pm
@skeletor

Fuck you, you're just jealous because no MMA fighter has ever wished you happy birthday via facebook.
dranokills- April 3, 2010 at 7:19 pm
Hey largemidget you got a little...yeah right there!
It was just there on your lip, just a tiny spot, ha...I guess you forgot to lick your lips when you swallowed.
just saying, don't want to see you go out in public and have to explain it.
skeletor- April 3, 2010 at 4:23 pm
@LargeMidget
I'm pretty sure he's married, so.... to bad for you I guess.
LargeMidget- April 3, 2010 at 10:25 am
Before this falls off the front page I just wanted to state one more time for the record that Kenny Florian is the shit.

Kenny could implement a different strategy in their next fight and would do a lot better. Clearly Kenny's game plan in the first fight was to wear BJ down against the cage. Little did he know, BJ Penn had greatly improved his cardio and shocked the world when he kept up the pace all the way into the 4th round.

Kenny's been working that jab for a reason. The next time they fight he's gonna use his reach advantage to nullify BJ's boxing, and he won't be forcing himself to grapple with him. Kenny's superior footwork and head movement will avoid enough of BJ's punching power to make it an even battle in the standup, and Kenflo will win it 4 rounds to 1. (hypothetical)

WAR KENFLO! Come back soon, I love to read your interviews no matter who you do them with but it's extra cool when my favorite fighter gives an exclusive to my favorite website.

Kenny, if you're reading this by any chance - You're the man, keep up the good work in MMA and broadcasting. Keep training harder and getting better, I really look forward to the day you become champion! Oh yeah, and show Maynard what it means to FINISH a fight.

bobzemuda- April 3, 2010 at 7:36 am
Kenny Florian: The King of Eloquent Shit-Talking.

I love it.
rlh61- April 3, 2010 at 7:17 am
@WhyNot

I think the Sherk fight would be a waste of time. Sherk isn't half the fighter he used to be and it didn't take much for people to figure him out...especially after he was off the 'juice'. It could only be hyped as a payback-fight and Kenny would work him over.

Diego is back at 170 and still has night terrors about fighting 155 that include grass skirts and Don Ho music. Kenny could move up to 170 for that fight, but again it would just be a payback fight for the TUF finally.


So, being a Florian fan, I think he should take ReX's advice and travel the world kicking the shit out of every 155'er out there...
WhyNot- April 2, 2010 at 9:52 pm
Kenny has become an elite 155 but there is no way he deserves another title shot yet. He should still fight Sherk and Sanchez again. He lost both those fights and I remember someone named B.J. who destroyed both of them. I'd like to see Gilbert Melendez in the UFC. If Melendez beats Aoki that will certify him. I couldn't give a &$^# about Aoki cause he's a drama queen when he gets touch. The problem with the 155div right now is that there are alot of elite fighters but only one of them is great. No one in the near future at lightweight can beat a cardio fit B.J. Penn. Kenny's boxing looked sharp against a low level,UFC virgin Gomi. I wanna see him bang with Diego again because I can't see a clear advantage between them.
fatbellyfrank- April 2, 2010 at 9:37 pm
Oh, and great fight Ken, gave him nothing and worked your plan, great to watch. I also like the idea of Sotiroupolous, would be a great test for George.
fatbellyfrank- April 2, 2010 at 9:32 pm
@ Rex, awesomiciousness, how could a dude not enjoy something that cool!! he just keeps pumpin em out WAR REX
skeletor- April 2, 2010 at 5:11 pm
@MoonBelly
They should give him Maynard next. That dude needs his ass whipped bad, the 55 answer to Fitch.
MoonBelly- April 2, 2010 at 4:44 pm
I certainly don't see any reason to give him another shot at the belt already. You can say he's better but what happens when (ok if) BJ beats him again? Let him fight a guy like Tyson Griffin next. Give Maynard the title shot and see where you sit from there.

*edit: just found out Griffin is already booked to fight Dunham.

George Sotiropoulos? Maybe? Who else has some W's and is worthy of KenFlo?
sevvi- April 2, 2010 at 4:18 pm
Nice interview, i liked it.. Keep up the good work. And good luck to Kenny in his next fights. WAR!
ArmFarmer- April 2, 2010 at 3:19 pm
I met kenny once at a local fight he was sitting like 2 rows in front of me. Unfortunately my friend had given me an aderol before we left which made me really hyper and talkative so i gushed like a school girl when I talked to him. I was pretty embarassed about it the next day.. actually I'm still embarassed. He was cool as hell though he was very humble and talked to anyone that approached him and was taking pics with people and everything. I think he really enjoys the fans and appreciates the support. He has also been winning me money for years so that's good too. I'd really like to see him with the belt.
LargeMidget- April 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm
KENNY FLORIAN IS THE SHIT!

Thank you for stopping by Kenflo, come back soon!

Sincerely,

Diehard Kenflo fan.
robthom- April 2, 2010 at 2:08 pm
"FLORIAN: No, it’s part of a rhythm. It’s a calculated part of a boxing rhythm you try to get yourself into to make sure that I keep my head moving and I stay loose. It’s a swagger you need to have. "

^^
This is such a pimpin answer. Something that Matt Hughes doesn't understand or respect.
Great interview.

Gomi's only 31. Maybe he's burned out or tired mentally right now, but physically he shouldn't be to far gone to get his game back together again.
IMO
Kimbos Bread- April 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm
Florian deserves another shot at the title.
GEE-yuh-TEEN- April 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm
No offense, but these interviews suck.

Should have asked if that Bojangles chicken is worth a damn.
Goat- April 2, 2010 at 1:17 pm
Just once, I'd like to hear a contender say "Fuck, I want the champ to get whooped on, so I have a better chance at getting the belt."

scooper837- April 2, 2010 at 1:06 pm
what a great fight and it was fo free
PortlandMMA- April 2, 2010 at 1:03 pm
There is something wrong with you if you don't like Kenny Florian, dude is one of the most cerebral fighters out there and he is rarely in a boring fight. Not to mention he's grown more as a fighter over the last few years then anyone out there. I agree with mattyr31, while Kenny did lose to BJ he's the only guy on Earth who is even close to his level at 155.
ReX13- April 2, 2010 at 12:59 pm
Maybe Dana should release KenFlo from his contract.

Stay with me now:

Kenny could just wander the earth, beating up everyone at 155 everywhere. Go whup some guys in Sengoku. Enter the Lightweight Grand Prix for Dream and claim the belt. Visit StrikeForce, do work. Visit Bellator, repeat. At this point, it will be clear that Florian has taken a level in badass, and there is no one to challenge him. Keep in mind, at any point during this process, he is welcome to take a fight in the UFC for a lucrative purse. After becoming the destroyer of worlds, set up the super megafight with Penn. Then enjoy the awesomiciousness.
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