Kenny Florian knew that trash talk would be par for the course gearing up towards a fight with UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn. However, he didn’t quite expect the kick-off he got on Tuesday.
Penn, who’s been nursing his wounds since his four-round loss to welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94 on Jan. 31, expressed surprise that Florian planned to train with the French Canadian fighter, claiming that Florian had previously contacted Penn to warn him of St. Pierre’s proclivity to “grease up” before fights.
Penn dropped the bombshell statement during his first sit-down video interview since UFC 94 on BJPenn.com.
“That is kind of surprising to me because Kenny is actually the guy who tipped us off that GSP was going to be greasing,” said Penn. “He actually e-mailed me and tipped me off.”
Florian, who once trained with the popular Hawaiian fighter in his homeland, seemed flabbergasted by Penn’s assertion.
“I’ve never emailed a fighter about anything like that. I don’t even have B.J. Penn’s email,” a puzzled Florian told Sherdog.com on Tuesday. “I’d love to see that email. I would say print that email and show it to everybody. Where’s this mystery email?”
Florian, 32, also dispelled any possibility that the two had exchanged the alleged information by other means.
“I haven’t spoken to B.J. -- besides ‘hello’ -- since January of 2007,” he said. “I’ve never trained with [St. Pierre] in the past. I have no motive in saying that. Even if I knew, would I say that? I know of other fighters who have [greased] and I don’t say anything to anybody.”
Photo by Sherdog.com
Florian doesn't want to
wait for his shot at Penn.
Florian, who busted through Joe Stevenson in four minutes at UFC 91 last November, has gone 6-0 in the Octagon since his unanimous decision loss to then-champion Sean Sherk at UFC 64 in October 2006.
The Boston native is widely considered the No. 1 contender to Penn’s lightweight throne, though the controversy surrounding greasing allegations by St. Pierre’s corner and subsequent aspirations for a rematch have threatened to derail a Penn-Florian showdown.
Florian (11-3) interpreted Penn’s latest revelation as a step back in his direction at least.
“I was a little worried [about a St. Pierre-Penn rematch coming first],” said Florian. “From what I heard, it did really well with the pay-per-view and a lot of people turned up for it. The UFC certainly could have made a lot of money doing the third one, but I think the overwhelming response was –- I didn’t realize how big of a fight it would be between me and B.J. until I saw the polls and people talking on the Interweb. People want to see me fight B.J. and it feels good to know that.”
Florian suggested that Penn “feels threatened” by the fighter’s intentions to train with St. Pierre, and described the Hawaiian’s comments as “a mind game.” Florian hopes to join the multi-talented 170-pound king in Montreal sometime in March.
Penn’s assessment of Florian the fighter was far less controversial.
“He’s very good,” said Penn during the hour-long interview. “He’s very well rounded. He’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu. He’s obviously improved his wrestling and he’s a southpaw muay Thai fighter with great kicks. He can box, he can elbow, he can knee. He’s a mixed martial artist. He is. I give Kenny that: He’s a mixed martial artist, and I’ve got my work cut out for me.”
The UFC has not officially offered Florian a title shot against Penn (13-5-1) yet, though the part-time ESPN correspondent anticipates a return to the Octagon in June or July. Penn confirmed that his reps are currently negotiating the bout with the UFC.
Known as a cerebral competitor, Florian’s reasons for training with St. Pierre are two-fold.
“He’s trained everyone to fight against me. He trained both [Sam] Stout and [Roger] Huerta to fight me,” said Florian. “and obviously, he got a first-hand account of fighting B.J. –- twice. He’s gone seven rounds with B.J., so that’s some good information to get. Hopefully Georges will forget about the email I sent B.J. Penn and share it with me.”
Joe Hall contributed to this article.