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Florian's biggest challenge

Story by David L. Hudson Jr.
Photo by Chris Cozzone

UFC lightweight title challenger Kenny Florian knows he faces the toughest challenge of his career when he faces the legendary B.J. Penn at UFC 101 in Philadelphia on August 11th.

“Without a doubt it presents the biggest challenge in my career, but I want to get to the top of the mountain. That is what it excites me.” The fighter known as “KenFlo” is ready to go, prepared to test his skill set against one of the most talented mixed martial artist on the planet.

Florian enters the Octagon an underdog, considering that in his previous bid for the lightweight title he lost a lopsided decision to Sean “the Muscle Shark” Sherk, a man that Penn destroyed to capture the crown. Yet, Florian’s career is on the rise – as it has been nearly from the beginning.

For many years, martial arts was not even his best sport, as the Massachusetts native excelled in soccer so much that he played Division I at Boston College where he earned a degree in communications. Upon reflection, Florian says that his soccer helped him in mixed martial arts with his “footwork and coordination … and the footwork and strength I got in my legs.” He also analogizes what he calls the “chaos in the field ahead” in soccer to some of the challenges in the Octagon.

But, when asked how he has improved so dramatically in a professional MMA career that began in only 2003, he responds: “I just love the sport. I’m passionate about it and if you truly love what you do and truly do love it, you will succeed.” He also attributes his rapid success and improvement to what he terms a “beginner’s mentality” which keeps him eager and alert to learn and evaluate new movements and strategies. “I think about the sport all the time,” he says. Florian says his life mantra is “follow your passion and commit to it 100%.”

 He not only fights in the UFC, but the former communications major stands out as one of the truly great fighters who can communicate about the sport in multiple media. Florian co-hosts MMA Live, works on television broadcasts (he replaced Joe Rogan at UFC 83 and also worked a WEC event), and writes for FIGHT! magazine on occasion. “I think it is my passion for the art,” he says of his versatility. “I will be a part of this sport forever whether it is coaching, commentating or whatever. It is something that I really love and I always try my best to show the world how beautiful a sport this is.”

But, for now his focus remains solidly on the ultimate task – B.J. Penn. When asked to predict the bout, Florian responds that he is not into predictions, but offers that it will be a “highly technical and exciting fight.” While “highly technical” and “exciting” may seem like an oxymoronic combination, many mixed martial fans can’t wait for the matchup.

Many also can’t wait to see Florian receive a rematch against Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez, who defeated him in the middleweight final of The Ultimate Fighter Season One. Florian eagerly anticipates that bout in the future, stating: “definitely, I think it will happen.”

Florian represents much that is great about a mixed martial artist. He shows dedication to his craft, does not badmouth opponents and shows great appreciation for his fans.

Check out UFC 101 on pay-per-view to see whether this true mixed martial artist can climb to the top of the mountain.

—             David L. Hudson Jr. is a feature writer for and the author of Combat Sports: An Encyclopedia of Wrestling, Fighting and Mixed Martial Arts.


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