(Photo Courtesy of UFC) by Damon Martin
“You’ve Gotta Go With The Flo”
Interview with Kenny Florian

Kenny Florian was one of the most popular and definitely one of the most likeable fighters to come out of the first season of the “Ultimate Fighter” reality show. Despite a tough loss in the finale against Diego Sanchez, the Boston native made his comeback to the octagon with an impressive win over former housemate, Alex Karalexis a few months ago.

Now, Kenny Florian takes his next fight in the UFC against a very tough opponent, 4-time Muay Thai world champion, Kit Cope. KenFlo, as he is known to his fans, sat down with MMAWeekly to talk about his upcoming fight, the new season of the “Ultimate Fighter”, and his appearance with Sean Gannon at UFC 55.

MMAWeekly: How is training going and how has everything been since we last saw you fight?

Kenny Florian: It’s been going pretty well. I’ve actually been training less. I’ve been taking it a little easier. I have a tendency to over train a lot, so I’ve been taking time to just mentally focus and be careful not to over train, and just to listen to my body.

MMAWeekly: Your next fight will be seen on national television against Kit Cope. What do you think about Kit Cope as a fighter and about this fight?

Kenny Florian: I think Kit Cope is a very dangerous fighter for a couple of reasons. I mean he’s shown to have world class striking, the fact that he doesn’t have that much mixed martial arts experience, you don’t know a lot about him. Seeing his fights from a couple of years ago, I can’t base his mixed martial arts experience on those fights, I mean he has to be a better fighter that what he has shown.

You can’t underestimate him, he is a world-class striker, he’s got a background in wrestling, and he trains some tough guys. I’m expecting a war; I’ve trained very hard for this fight. I feel like this is going to be a great fight for both of us, and I’m really looking forward to it. He definitely poses a threat to a lot of 170lb fighters, I’m happy that I get a chance to fight a world class striker like him. I know he likes to talk a lot of trash, and he’s from Vegas, so it’s exciting for a lot of reasons. I’m really excited to get to fight someone like Kit.

MMAWeekly: You stood toe to toe with a legitimate 185lb fighter in Chris Leben, and it’s known that you were not a 185lb fighter. You stood with Alex Karalexis, who isn’t as polished as a striker, but hits very hard and took his best shots. We know you’re a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but no one has really seen you on the ground yet. Is this a fight that you’re looking to take to the ground or are you okay standing and banging with this guy as well?

Kenny Florian: You can never say never. I mean you have to look at each fight as it comes. Anytime you go into a fight you should have a strategy, but things can change very quickly, and I think that’s why we all train so much for everything. You can go in there with a certain game plan and you want to strike with somebody and you find yourself on your back.

I’m going to keep myself open to whatever possibilities present themselves during the fight. Whatever is available, I’m going to take. I’m going to go with that classic cliché. I’ve trained with some great Thai fighters and I know what my abilities are, and I mean obviously Kit’s weakness is going to be on the ground, and that’s something you have to be aware of to expose. I’ve proven, that even with Chris Leben, when my striking skills were abysmal, that I could stay in there and take his best shots. I’m prepared for anything.

MMAWeekly: You are starting to become known for your razor sharp elbows. Is that something that you’ve started training for more to use in fights?

Kenny Florian: Actually, the first time I ever got to throw an elbow was in my fight against Leben. My Thai trainer back in Boston teaches that, I mean the thai fighters are huge on elbows. The trainers that I’ve worked with have always pushed elbows. My game of throwing the elbows is to hurt people. I don’t have a lot of power on the inside with my punches; the elbow is my great equalizer. On the inside I can cut people, I can hurt them, I can make them aware the power of the elbow from the inside, so maybe they have to back up and give up a strong clinch. It’s something that just came naturally, and I just became effective with them. Because I throw them in a circular manner, which is what you’re supposed to do, it tends to cut people. That’s not my intention to cut people.

MMAWeekly: Your success story comes a lot from the Ultimate Fighter show, and now you get to showcase that you’re a great competitor as well. What do you think of this season of the Ultimate Fighter?

Kenny Florian: To me honestly it’s been a bit of a disappointment, and I mean I understand why, but I think it’s because they had a lot of pressure on them going in. We really set the stage, we had a lot of drama on our season, and we had some good fights. Dana or whoever it is, and I think they came to realize from watching the show that this is a big deal. They are going to be fighting in front of millions.

They saw how the season went, they saw people that they loved or they hated and our season got a huge response. I think they went into the season knowing that it was a big deal and they went in there fighting not to lose, instead of fighting to win, and I can understand that because I know I did that in the finale against Diego. I mean against Leben I let it all hang out, there was nothing for me to lose, I mean I’m in there I’m this little guy fighting at 185lbs and I’m just going to give it my best shot. And against Diego I knew that it was this big deal and I felt all this pressure, from training with him I thought this was a winnable fight and I put a lot of pressure on myself and I went in there not to lose.

Their problems with the fights is that they’re going out there fighting not to lose, instead of going out there and going for the win. I think that’s what’s causing this cautious style of fighting. They’re out there circling each other and no one wants to make a mistake and they want that contract.

The second problem with this season is the lack of drama. I mean I think these guys are getting along too well. They just won’t let their personalities come out. Either they don’t have much personality or they’re just not letting it hang out there. Whether they went in there saying they didn’t want to be the next Leben or whatever, I just feel like when you’re given an opportunity like that, whether they love you or hate you, you’ve got to go out there and just be yourself. When you’re on a reality show, people watch for the drama, the fights are a bonus. For us, for MMA fans, our main interest is the fights, but for the majority of people watching aren’t your typical MMA fans. They’re reality show fans and they want to see a lot of drama, some fights, and that’s just not happening.

MMAWeekly: All of the guys from the Ultimate Fighter show seem to have a huge target on your backs, and the first guy from your season to lose happened when Josh Koscheck lost to Drew Fickett. Did that almost relieve some of the pressure that you guys had on you that one of you finally lost or was it hard watching someone you knew like that go down the way he did?

Kenny Florian: Honestly, I didn’t feel too much pressure myself. I really changed my outlook since my loss to Diego. I’m going out there to perform. Was it a pressure release? No, not really. Josh did look good out there, he’s definitely expanded his jiu-jitsu, he’s gotten a lot better, he was getting position on Drew, he wasn’t able to finish stuff, but he looked a lot better. It was one of those things where he was winning that fight and he got caught. He got a little lazy with his hands and he got caught. It was tough to see Josh lose, but I think him doing as well as he did against a quality guy like Fickett, shows the quality of the fighters we had on the show.

MMAWeekly: A guy you fought on the Ultimate Fighter is fighting on this same show, Diego Sanchez is taking on Nick Diaz. What do you think about that fight?

Kenny Florian: A lot of people are saying, at least from reading the comments on the internet, that Diaz is going to absolutely destroy Diego and I totally disagree. While I think that Diaz has a great chance of beating Diego, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think Diego is the favorite because of the way he matches up with Nick. I think a lot of people underestimate Diego, he’s got strong takedowns, and Nick hasn’t really shown a great ability to stop the takedown, and if Diego can play a similar game that Karo Parysian played against him, I think he can’t definitely get a win. I think Diego is actually much better than Karo on the ground, and he’s very good at grounding and pounding and staying out of submissions. Nick Diaz is super slick and has the better stand-up. I think it’s going to be a very exciting fight, but I honestly think Diego is going to win.

MMAWeekly: At the last UFC, you were in the corner of Sean Gannon. So much was made about his entrance into the UFC, and he is from Boston like you, but how did you end up cornering him for that fight? What were your feelings about Sean Gannon being in the UFC?

Kenny Florian: Sean is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met; he’s proven that, even before the Kimbo fight. He’s fought at events like Mass Destruction, they had his record at 1-0 but records of mixed martial arts in the state of Massachusetts is really skewed. Pro fights, they’re not pro fights and then they’re amateur bouts. I’ve seen him fight at least 4 or 5 times and win. Sean has been a champion of mixed martial arts here in Boston. Now, obviously with the mystique around him and Kimbo, we’d be lying if we said that wasn’t the reason he was in the UFC. While he hasn’t proven himself on a national level of mixed martial arts, he was a marketable person, because of the Kimbo fight. Was Sean ready for the UFC? I don’t know. Personally I thought there have been people in the UFC who didn’t belong there. I myself didn’t get a chance to work with Sean, I mean I worked with him for 15 minutes and that was before his fight. I know he was working with some of the guys from my gym, some of the guys I train with. I don’t think Sean knew what the UFC was like. He didn’t realize that training to be in the UFC is something you really need to suffer through. You really need to kill yourself with training and I don’t think he was prepared for that. I don’t think he was prepared for that level. In the UFC, they are pro fighters and this is what they do, and I don’t think he understood that. He didn’t train as hard as he could have. I was asked to corner him by his manager, and I wanted to be there for Sean anyway I could.

MMAWeekly: Any final words for the fans or anything you want to close out saying about this fight coming up with Kit Cope?

Kenny Florian: I just want to say thank you for the support. I’ve received a lot of support with all the e-mails. Make sure to watch the fight, Kit’s a dangerous guy and he poses a lot of challenges and I’m looking forward to testing my skill against him. I always come to fight and he does as well, he’s very aggressive and I think there is going to be some fireworks. People can keep checking out my website, kennyflorian.com. and thanks to all my trainers.