The Science Behind Kenny Florian’s Move to Featherweight for UFC 131

Kenny Florian

Kenny Florian and his coaches Jon Chaimberg and George Lockhart discuss how he will be faster, stronger and better than ever when he makes his featherweight debut at UFC 131.

When Kenny Florian first appeared on the UFC radar it was as a member of the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ season 1 cast….as a middleweight.

As improbable as that seems, Florian did once compete near 185lbs, but as soon as the reality show ended he immediately cut down to 170lbs. A 2-0 record greeted Florian in the welterweight division, but then he soon decided to make another move and this time ended up at 155lbs.

In the lightweight class, Florian went 9-3 defeating a number of top names in the division, but going 0-2 in title fights during that time. Following his last fight, a defeat to current top lightweight contender Gray Maynard, and a subsequent knee injury, Florian decided to try his hand at featherweight.

The move has been met by a pretty even split of supporters who believe Florian’s cut will make him an instant contender at 145lbs, while a fair share of detractors wonder if the extra pounds shed will result in cardio loss and lack of speed or power at featherweight.

To insure that he made the cut the right way, Florian employed nutritionist George Lockhart to handle his day to day eating habits and strength and conditioning guru Jonanthan Chaimberg to get his body physically ready for the shift to 145lbs.

The result according to his coaches is a leaner and meaner version of Kenny Florian.

“The camp has been unbelievable,” strength and conditioning coach Jonathan Chaimberg told MMAWeekly Radio. “Really he started a long time ago before the knee injury, because he really started taking his wrestling really seriously. He started dedicating himself to becoming one of the best wrestlers in the division. He’s really working on what his weaknesses were before. He’s really attacked his strength and conditioning, and his strength was a bit of an issue before and his wrestling which was a weakness before.

“His strength now is better than he was at 155. I know it’s weird to imagine, but at 55 he wasn’t close to the numbers he’s hitting now. He’s really been aggressive with his strength and conditioning, he’s made me very happy with the amount he’s training.”

Chaimberg, who spends the majority of his time in Montreal working with athletes, has seen Florian workout in places like the Tristar Gym under Firas Zahabi and he was brutally honest and said he wasn’t all that impressed.

Not that Florian was a bad fighter, but when it came to strength and conditioning, he was missing a few key elements that Chaimberg was more than happy to plug in.

“The end result will be well worth the while because he’s really dedicated himself to his strength. He’s never been a guy who impressed me in the gym when he used to come to the gym, nothing he ever did in the gym other than his cardio really impressed me, his strength and power weren’t on the upper echelon of the guys I train, but now he’s really taking his strength and conditioning serious so I’m really excited to see where that’s going to take him,” Chaimberg said.

For Florian’s nutrition the Massachusetts’ native brought in fellow fighter and Marine veteran George Lockhart. Beyond being a fighter himself, Lockhart has worked with several other fighters over the years including leading the charge in helping former WEC champion Brian Stann cut from light heavyweight to middleweight.

Lockhart has been in charge of Florian’s day-to-day eating habits, and he’s been extremely impressed with his dedication and willingness to stick with the program.

“It’s cool to get e-mails, calls or whatever saying ‘I’m getting stronger.’ I believe that Kenny is getting stronger as he’s actually cutting weight, which happens to a lot of our fighters. Brian Stann, the same thing. If you give your body what it needs when it needs it, it’s going to work on all cylinders and you’re actually going to get improved performance,” Lockhart told MMAWeekly.com.

While he is shedding pounds like he’s never done before, Lockhart says he’s managed to open up a newer, stronger, and faster Kenny Florian and he’s looking forward to unleashing him on Diego Nunes at UFC 131 this weekend.

“Kenny he’s lighter which makes him faster, which makes him more powerful cause he’s keeping his strength,” Lockhart commented. “The thing about Kenny is he’s a workhorse. If I tell him to do something, he does it, which makes my job extremely easy. He’s got the willingness to push through it, to eat when I tell him to eat.”

When Florian hits the scales this Friday in Vancouver he will be making 145lbs for the first time. While many fighters believe in making a test run to a new weight class before actually doing it on weigh-in day, Florian isn’t one of them.

The Boston area fighter admits that the weight cut has been tough, but the end result will show off a new improved fighter. One that hopes to make a run at the UFC featherweight belt in 2011.

“My body’s pretty angry at me right now to be honest, it doesn’t like me right now,” Florian joked. “So far, so good. I haven’t done any test runs. Any time you do that it can actually be a little bit extreme, it can actually take away from your next weight cut if you do it too close together. For me it comes down to really trusting your nutritionist and doing the math based on your body fat percentage, your muscle, and all that stuff. It can be done and done properly.”

Florian is confident that he’ll make weight and recover with no problems and his nutritionist feels the very same way. Chaimberg points out that he still holds back some reservation on making a final judgment until Friday when Florian hits the scales, but he expects maximum performance come Saturday night.

“I’m interested to see what he’ll look like the final day of cutting cause it is a big cut, and I thought Kenny looked pretty skinny when he used to cut to 55. It’s going to be interesting to see the final result that Friday morning when he cuts the weight,” Chaimberg stated.

The real test will be how Florian looks when he faces a top ten featherweight in Diego Nunes. If he is successful, Florian may get a shot at UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo this fall, but first he has to get past his teammate at UFC 131 in Vancouver.


Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for MMAWeekly.com.
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