UFC lightweight contender Kenny Florian is set to take on fellow top 155’er Gray Maynard this Saturday night in front of a hometown Boston crowd in bout that could award him a third, and possibly final, chance to challenge for the UFC lightweight title. Florian recently spoke with MMAFighting.com’s Ben Fowlkes about the added pressure of fighting in his hometown and also gave some insight into his preparation for Maynard.
Florian, a native of Brookline, Massachusetts, will be fighting in the UFC in front of his hometown for the first time. With that comes the added local media attention and the old “friends” looking to score tickets to the fight. Florian said that all of that may be unpleasant at times but that it comes with the territory.
“It can be a little distracting,” Florian said of fighting at home. “But it’s stuff I’ve dealt with before. People want you to get them tickets to every fight. You have to win every fight. You always have your fans supporting you and people in your corner expecting you to do well. That’s just how it is.”
“Ken-Flo” has challenged for the UFC lightweight belt twice now, losing both times to Sean Sherk and BJ Penn, respectively. Florian is approaching 35 years of age and may not get another chance to fight for the title. Knowing this, and knowing that his bout with Maynard will net him another title shot, Florian has prepared himself to make this run count.
“There’s never a good time to lose, but yeah, now is the time for me,” said Florian. “I have to go on my run now, because I feel like I’m best prepared for it now. I feel like my style is way more conducive to being successful in this division than it’s ever been. I changed my style so I could beat everybody, not so I could beat most people.”
Maynard, aptly nicknamed “The Bully” for his oppressive wrestling-based fight style, is an accomplished wrestler who has used those skills to great effect in climbing the lightweight ladder. Florian has faltered against wrestlers in the past but doesn’t believe that Maynard will pose any problems that his training partner, UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre, one of the most successful wrestlers in the game, cannot.
“Especially since the B.J Penn fight, having worked with Georges St. Pierre on a regular basis, that helps a lot,” said Florian. “I have extreme doubt that Gray Maynard is going to be a better or bigger or stronger or faster wrestler than GSP. Every sparring partner I had for this fight, MMA-wise and wrestling-wise, was a 170-pounder. GSP is walking around at about 200 pounds right now. The other guys I’m working with are about 190, 195, so I’m ready for a strong welterweight, not just a strong lightweight.”
Florian described his most recent loss, to Penn, as devastating and indescribable. He bounced back from that defeat with two impressive submission wins over Clay Guida and Takanori Gomi and said that he keeps himself moving forward by staying positive.
“At the end of the day, if you truly love what you’re doing and that’s why you’re doing this, there’s only one way to look and that’s up,” said Florian. “There’s only one way to think, and that’s positive. I wouldn’t be the fighter I am today without that, and I expect even more changes. I’m just scratching the surface.”
Florian and Maynard will square off on the main card of Saturday’s UFC 118 which will be broadcast live from the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts via pay-per-view.