I spoke to Kenny Florian last week for this SportsIllustrated.com article on the effects of the dreaded “Octagon jitters,” and naturally our conversation turned to his upcoming UFC lightweight title fight against B.J. Penn at UFC 101. When I asked about Penn’s claims that Florian had warned him of potential “greasing” by Georges St. Pierre before their UFC 94 superfight, Florian did his best to downplay the dust-up.
“I’m not sure what that was. Maybe it was a miscommunication, after what I had said about Roger Huerta. Maybe it was head games on his part. Maybe he genuinely believes that. I don’t really know. But I have a lot of respect for B.J. I think he’s a proud champion. I think he worked hard for that fight against Georges, and he just wasn’t able to deliver. That can be hard to deal with. I think that loss hurt him.”
As for what he expects from Penn, who hasn’t sounded as interested in defending his lightweight title lately as he has in pursuing a case against GSP, Florian said he’s preparing for the the toughest Penn possible.
“I do think he’ll be motivated. I expect him to show up in shape and ready to defend his title. That’s what I’m preparing for.”
On the subject of his first time in the Octagon, Florian was gracious enough to recount what was a painful learning experience for him:
"I was hitting pads for maybe only 30 seconds, and I was just gassed," he said. "I couldn’t believe it. I thought, ‘I’m in much better shape than this. Why am I so tired just warming up?’ Then all the negative thoughts took over. ‘What if I lose in front of all my friends and family? What if I look really bad?’"
"My game plan was to pressure Diego [Sanchez] right away," he said. "Somehow I ended up just circling and circling for what felt like five minutes. I could hear my corner saying, OK, Kenny, let’s do something here.’ The next thing I knew I was mounted and Diego hit me with a shot that hurt me and kind of woke me up. That’s when I felt like, okay, I’m in this fight, let’s go. By then there was already blood in my eyes and "Big" John [McCarthy] was pulling Diego off me. That was it."