by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
When Kenny Florian defeated Roger
Huerta in August it seemed like the Boston based fighter was headed straight
for a title shot against UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn.
Instead, Florian’s route detoured
due to Penn moving up to welterweight for a fight against Georges St. Pierre so
instead of waiting for a title shot, he instead opted to take a shot at former No.
1 contender Joe Stevenson.
With every fight comes risk, but Florian
was insistent on keeping up his fight schedule, while facing every top contender
along the way.
“I just love to fight and I told the UFC that not only did I
want to fight, but I want to fight someone tough,” Florian
commented on MMAWeekly Radio recently. “And Joe Stevenson certainly fit the
bill and I was happy when they gave me that name, I said ‘I’ll take it’. That’s one of the guys I always wanted
to fight, I consider him one of the best guys out there.”
While a title shot seemed just within his grasp, Florian would rather eliminate any doubt as to whether or
not he deserves a shot at the 155-pound championship for a second time in his
“I don’t want anything handed to me, I really want to earn
it,” Florian stated. “The kind of opposite way I was thrown into a title shot
really early in my career, and really thrown in the UFC early on in my
career. I really wanted to prove I’m
the No. 1 contender hands down, and here I have another opportunity to prove it
against Joe Stevenson.”
With Florian in the proverbial cat bird‘s seat as the top contender in the division now,
Stevenson has been vocal about his role as an underdog coming into the
fight. While the betting odds may
read that way, Florian feels there is no real
favorite in this fight until they square off Saturday night.
“No, absolutely not, there’s no such thing, that’s all
(expletive).” Florian said about Stevenson’s supposed
underdog role in the fight. “When
it comes down to fight time, there’s no such thing as a favorite, there’s no
such thing as an underdog. I don’t
believe in that at all, and I’ve come in as an underdog many times and it just
doesn’t mean anything as far as I’m concerned.”
Beyond the oddsmakers, many fans
and critics have been critical when breaking down this fight simply because of Florian’s last fight against a very physically strong
In only his eighth professional fight, Florian
lost his first chance at the UFC gold by dropping a five-round decision to Sean
Sherk, who essentially outwrestled and outmuscled the
former “Ultimate Fighter” competitor for the win.
“I love hearing people saying ‘oh Joe Stevenson he’s very
similar to (Sean) Sherk and I think he’s going to do
the same thing that Sherk did,’" Florian said. “I
hope people think that, I really do.
I really hope people think that I have the same wrestling that I had
since the Sherk fight.
“People think I’m sitting here on my (expletive) watching
TV, or watching instructionals on wrestling. I’m out there training every single
day, and I’m getting some good wrestling training partners and I can’t wait.”
Not only is Florian training his
wrestling, but he also says he’s more than happy to test his ground game
against Stevenson’s if the fight goes there.
“Let’s see whose wrestling’s better. Let’s see if he can take me down, let’s
see if he can overpower me and let’s do it,” Folorian
stated. “I hope people are looking
at that Sherk fight and thinking that’s the same
People like living in the past, and that’s good for them, I’m living
Florian will get the chance to show his
improvement and most likely guarantee a title shot if he gets past Joe
Stevenson at UFC 91 on Saturday night.