UFC lightweight Kenny Florian earned himself the top contender status after he defeated Roger Huerta at UFC 87 in August. However champion BJ Penn threw a wrench into his plans when he signed on to challenge welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre for his title at UFC 94, leaving Florian to either sit and wait, or take a fight in the meantime. Florian chose the latter of the two, thinking that an eight month layoff would not be in his best interest.
Many questioned why Florian would take such a risk at this point in his career. Most fighters would have chosen to wait for the champion, and not risk injury or a loss in a fight that he already proved he didn’t need to take. However, Florian feels that is not a true champion’s mentality. He wants to earn his keep.
“You’ve got to go out there and fight and prove it,” Florian stated of his top contender status. “I can’t wait to do that.”
In addition, it is not as though Florian took on just any opponent. He is taking on a very dangerous Joe Stevenson, who lost to champion BJ Penn in a title bout once before.
At 28-9, Stevenson’s credentials are well established. That is why he is dumbfounded as to why Florian is the favorite heading into this weekend’s showdown. In fact, he is quite irked at the notion that Florian is the better fighter of the two.
“[Stevenson] said he’s reading on the Internet that everyone is saying that I’m the favorite,” Florian stated. “He doesn’t understand why. He’s just had some real odd comments. I don’t know why he’s upset, or why it’s motivating him now. I don’t have to read the Internet to get motivated for a fight.”
However, MMA is a sport that often times needs controversy to help promote an event. A little trash talking can easily turn an average event into a powerhouse Pay-Per-View. So whether Stevenson is just trying to sell the fight, or actually believes what he is saying, is completely irrelevant to Florian.
“At the end of the day he can say whatever he wants,” commented Florian. “He needs to come in to fight and prove it. He says he wants to finish me. Then finish me. I’m ready, and I’ve trained real hard.”
In fact, Florian feels that he is coming off of the best training camp of his professional career, and intends to out-class Stevenson in every single aspect of the MMA game.
“I just want to try to beat him at everything. Joe Stevenson, everyone talks about his wrestling being really good (and) him being really strong. And his stand-up is getting better all the time. Obviously he’s got phenomenal jiu-jitsu. And I just want to beat him at everything,” proclaimed Florian.
“Whatever range, whatever situation we find ourselves in, I want to be the guy with the upper hand and doing the damage. And that’s what I plan on doing. I just want to — from start to finish — beat him down at everything.”
Florian is known as a finisher. He has ended nine of his 10 wins before the final bell, and intends to do the same at UFC 91.
“It’s always my intention to try and go out there and fight and knock my opponent out or submit him, and I’m hoping to do that in this fight [with Stevenson]. I definitely want to get the finish somehow,” Florian said. “He says I can’t knock him out. He says I can’t submit him. Well I believe I can.”
Come Saturday, Florian believes he will have his hand raised, his top contender status cemented and all questions answered.