MMANews.com's own Chris Howie recently caught up with one-half of the next UFC Fight Night main event, Kenny “Kenflo” Florian. Below is a complete transcript of the interview conducted on Thursday, August 30, 2007.
KENNY FLORIAN INTERVIEW (August 30, 2007)
Chris Howie of MMANews.com: This is Chris Howie with MMANews.com and today I am speaking with one of the UFC's top Lightweight contenders, Kenny “KenFlo” Florian. How are you today today?
Kenny Florian: I'm doing great man.
MMANews.com: How has training been going for your upcoming fight with Din Thomas?
Kenny Florian: Excellent man, excellent. Everything has been going great, really methodical, with a lot of hard work and we will definitely be prepared come September 19th.
MMANews.com: How do you feel you match up with Din?
Kenny Florian: I think I match up really well. You have two really good fighters who are well-rounded and who are intelligent fighters. We are both very technical fighters so I think it will be very evenly matched. The guy who wants it more is going to win this fight and I think that is what it is going to come down to.
MMANews.com: Is there anything that worries you about Din Thomas?
Kenny Florian: No. I will be prepared but I know that I have to worry about anything and everything that any fighter brings to the table. I always go into a fight expecting war and that is what I train for. I train for my opponents to be the best strikers in the world, the best wrestlers in the world, the best jiu-jitsu guy or the best conditioned guy so I’m ready for anything that he has to bring and I hope that he is ready for me as well.
MMANews.com: What advantages do you believe you have over him?
Kenny Florian: For advantages I believe that I am going to be better conditioned because I don’t think he is going to be in better shape than I am and I don’t think he can push the pace as quickly and as fast as I can. I believe I have an advantage in all aspects basically: striking, wrestling, on the ground but again that doesn’t mean anything until I go out and prove it and I hope to prove it on September 19th. I do believe he has the experience advantage but other than that I hope to show I have the advantage everywhere else.
MMANews.com: Did taking the fight on somewhat short notice have anything effect on your training?
Kenny Florian: Well I was prepared to fight in November so normally when I’m training I go through phases. I was just about to start a strength phase but instead I had to go right to the gas-in-the-tank phase which is a much more intense type of training. I keep my weight good year round, and I eat healthy year round so I was prepared in that aspect. I'm also at a point where I’m healthy, right before I fought [Sean] Sherk my back was giving me some problems but that is not the case now. I’m 100 percent and I’m ready to go. I’m looking forward to this fight. When I found out about the opportunity for the fight I didn’t ask any questions so I’m ready.
MMANews.com: Did you have an opponent set for November or were you just planning on fighting then?
Kenny Florian: There was no planned opponent set for November. It was a show that was planned for New Jersey which is on the east coast and that was an event that I certainly wanted to be on so I let the UFC know I wanted on that card and they had planned on putting me on it but this opportunity came up.
MMANews.com: Is there a chance you could fight on that card or would that be too close?
Kenny Florian: Well one of the deals I made with my team was that if I took this fight in September which was on short notice, I wouldn’t take a fight in November. It would be too close and they want me to recycle my training so after this fight I hope to be back sometime around January or early into the new year.
MMANews.com: Who have you been training with for your fight?
Kenny Florian: I’m training at the same place as always in Boston, Sityodtong, with Mark DellaGrotte, my brother Keith, and my strength and conditioning coach, Kevin Kearns.
MMANews.com: Now down at Sityodtong, you had part of the, as I like to call them, The French Connection, (Georges St. Pierre, Patrick Cote, Jonathan Goulet, David Louiseau) training before their fights. What were your thoughts on Cote’s fight this past weekend?
Kenny Florian: Yeah, GSP is planning to come down before his next fight I believe. Patrick has been doing great since training with us. He has been undefeated since coming down. We are sort of the hidden gem of MMA in the USA. Our gym is starting to get more notoriety and more people have started to migrate over and have liked what we are doing. We don’t have any distractions here; we train hard and work on everything. It’s a great training environment. I hope Georges comes down and shares his knowledge.
MMANews.com: How was Jonathan Goulet looking when he was down?
Kenny Florian: Jonathan was down for a couple weeks and he's getting in to what we are doing down here. I’m hoping he’ll come back before the fight but we’ll see what happens. He has some great trainers in Canada.
MMANews.com: One question a lot of people seem to be curious about is your elbows. What do you work to make them so effective?
Kenny Florian: Yeah it has kind of been a signature of the Sityodtong Muay Thai camp. They have always been very well rounded for the whole Muay Thai game, not just elbows. They have great knees, great kicks, get clinch game, and obviously very deadly elbows. Mark DellaGrotte really teaches how to throw an elbow properly and we just train with him. We put on the elbow pads and train from all different angles. Anyone who has trained elbows with Mark will know how devastating they can be. He can show you how to throw and elbow from any angle or position. It is a legal technique so why not use them to their maximum advantage? It's good to be doing everything other fighters are doing but it’s really good to be doing what they're not doing and elbows can lead to a very big advantage in a fight.
MMANews.com: What are your thoughts on the Lightweight title situation right now?
Kenny Florian main events the next UFC Fight Night on September 19th …
Kenny Florian: There is no shortage of great fighters in the UFC. We have a ton of talent and a ton of great fighters and a bunch of guys who are trying to get to that title fight. I think right now Joe Stevenson is a leading front runner right now for number one contender. It looks like Sean Sherk is probably going to be suspended for a year so he’ll probably be stripped. So depending on what happens with Sherk and if BJ Penn decides to stay a Lightweight, I think the next logical fight would be Joe Stevenson and BJ Penn. You have guys like [Clay] Guida knocking on the door so I think it is going to be interesting. I think this fight between Din and I could also be a big fight. With all the fighters knocking on the door any fight is a big fight right now in the Lightweight division. This is a huge fight for me and I think I’m in a must-win situation to stay up there on the contenders list.
MMANews.com: Do you think they will just go with two fighters to fight for the belt or do you think they may have something like a mini-tournament and split it up over a few shows?
Kenny Florian: I think they will definitely go with just the two guys fighting for the title for sure. I know the UFC is not big on tournaments so I think they will go with who is most impressive and who has the most impressive momentum and who has the better following as well. I feel that is a big part of it. I think all of those things will factor in when it comes time to decide
MMANews.com: So at this time you feel it could be Penn and Stevenson?
Kenny Florian: Yeah. I mean I don’t make the decision but I think that would be the most logical fight.
MMANews.com: Do you feel with an impressive victory you could get another shot at the title?
Kenny Florian: Yeah it’s possible. I want to beat Din Thomas and I want to beat all the best contenders out there. That’s my goal. I don’t want there to be any doubt that I’m the number one contender. If I could fight Joe Stevenson to decide who the number one contender is I’d rather do that than just go right to a title shot. I fought for the title not too long ago so I don’t want there to be any doubt in the UFC’s mind or the fans minds that I am the number one guy. I want to beat everyone who is around my level or above my level and take them out one at a time.
MMANews.com: Who are some other fighters in the UFC that you would like a chance to fight?
Kenny Florian: Ummm Clay Guida. I really think highly of him and think that he has had a little bit of bad luck in the UFC but he has shown that he is one of the best in the world. Marcus Aurelio who a lot of people considered one of the top five in the world — Guida just took him apart and that shows the level of fighters that we have in the UFC. People think so highly of the guys from Pride like [Takanori] Gomi but Aurelio submitted him and we have seen how susceptible Gomi is on the ground. He is considered the number one guy in the world but I just don’t believe it. Gomi was beaten by Aurelio and Guida just beat Aurelio, and that could be anyone can win on any given day but I think it shows the talent that we have in the UFC Lightweight division. So Guida is someone I’d like to fight. Thiago Tavares. I’d like to fight all of the top guys. BJ is probably considered the number one contender if he stays at Lightweight so there are a lot of top guys out there that I’d like to fight.
MMANews.com: The Lightweight division is a very stacked division at this point in time when you sit down and look at it.
Kenny Florian: Yeah I know. Definitely.
MMANews.com: Do you believe Gomi will come to the UFC or stay in Japan?
Kenny Florian: I hope Gomi comes over because I’d love to fight someone like him. He is a very exciting fighter and a fighter that blooms every time he fights and that is the type of fighter that I like to go against, guys that are going to be super aggressive from start to finish. For me I feel I can capitalize on fighters who come in like that. I just hope all the best fighters come in and I want to fight every one of them. Anyone who is considered top ten in the experts polls are the guys I want to fight because that’s who I want to be. I want to be at the top and to do that you have to fight the best guys.
MMANews.com: What inspired you to become involved in MMA?
Kenny Florian: I love the training for it and I love the aspect of trying to be the best at anything. There are so many tactics and strategies to the MMA game and learning them is a pleasure and a joy. I love going to the gym everyday and training hard. I love the healthy lifestyle, man, I love everything about it. I was always a fan of combat sports growing up as a kid, watching Kung-Fu theater and watching boxing, fighting with my brothers all the time. It is just something that I feel is inside me.
MMANews.com: Was there any particular fighter that paved the way for you to become involved?
Kenny Florian: Obviously the Gracie's – Royce and Rickson were the guys inspired me. Royce did everything that the martial arts said you can do. He was a little guy who was beating monsters and he was the first guy in my eyes that proved that he could go out and beat a bigger guy with technique and skill and that was very inspiring to me and that got me involved with BJJ.
MMANews.com: Who are some of your other favorite fighters to watch?
Kenny Florian: Well Fedor [Emelianenko] is obviously one of the best fighters in the world so I enjoy watching him. BJ Penn, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Quinton Jackson, Dan Henderson, the list just goes on and on. I love every fighter — any fighter who steps in the Octagon, win or lose, is a hero and is a tough guy. The skill and determination it takes to get into the Octagon is a tremendous achievement and I’m a fan of every fighter to be honest.
MMANews.com: When you were on The Ultimate Fighter you fought at Welterweight… or wait a second it was Middleweight…
Kenny Florian: [laughs] people forget about that don’t they…
MMANews.com: [laughs] Yeah, I had to second guess myself for a second…
Kenny Florian: Yeah I was a fat back then [laughs]. I wouldn’t mind going back up — definitely not to Middleweight but who knows maybe I’ll come back to Welterweight. I’d like to try and dominate the Lightweight division but maybe someday. Right now I’m focused on that Lightweight title.
MMANews.com: What are your thoughts on steroids and in particular, Sean Sherk and Hermes Franca both testing positive in a Lightweight title fight?
Kenny Florian: I think that it was something that was disappointing. Everyone is going to make mistakes and make bad decisions but I think it comes down to guys realizing that they are going to get caught and I think once people realize that we can get back to the whole root of martial arts and that is honor. There is no honor in cheating and there is no honor in taking performance enhancing drugs. It’s not about the guy who can use the best steroids; it’s about the guy who has the best skills, heart, and determination. Drugs and steroids have no place in the sport and it is time guys stop using once and for all. I really don’t know how those guys can sleep at night knowing that they cheated to get a title or to get a win.
MMANews.com: Do you think the title will get put up right away if they strip him of the belt or do you think it won’t be on the line until the new year.
Kenny Florian: I’m not too sure what the UFC will do in that situation, I’m just going to worry about myself for now and see what happens when the time comes.
MMANews.com: Ok Kenny, is there anything you would like to say to your fans or anyone you would like to thank before we go?
Kenny Florian: Yeah I’d like to thank all of my fans for their support and I’d like to thank my sponsors, Sprawl Fight Shorts, Versaclimber, Tourtellotte Solutions, NHBGear.com, TUF Guy Productions, and I’d like to thank all my training team here in Boston at Sityodtong, Mark Dellagrotte, my brother Keith Florian, Kevin Kearns, and again I just want to thank all the fans and hopefully I gain new fans with each fight I have.
MMANews.com: Do you have any prediction for the fight with Din Thomas?
Kenny Florian: It’s going to be a very fast paced fight and I would definitely go with that Florian kid with a finish.
MMANews.com: Ok Kenny, I really appreciated you taking the time out to speak with me today and I want to wish you good luck in your right with Din Thomas.
Kenny Florian: Thank you man, I appreciate it.
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