After defeating Roger Huerta at UFC 87, Kenny Florian thought that he had earned himself a title shot. However, lightweight champion BJ Penn was jumping up to the welterweight division to challenge for the title there, and Florian was left to decide whether to take a fight against a game Joe Stevenson, or wait for Penn. After handily dismantling Stevenson at UFC 91, Florian is no longer willing to wait for the belt, and rightfully so.
“I want BJ’s belt,” Florian stated in his post-fight Octagon interview. “BJ, you’re one of the best fighters out there. I’m here to test myself. I think you’re a great fighter, someone I look up to. I consider you a master. It’s time to kill that master.”
Florian’s statements may have come across a bit harsh, and definitely out of character, however he has earned the right to challenge the best in the world. During the UFC 91 post-fight press conference, Florian was back to his respectful self, however still managed to get his point across.
“He’s a great, great, fighter. I have a lot of respect and admiration for BJ,” Florian stated. “He’s one of the guys I’ve really looked up to. I consider him a legend in the sport.”
If Florian’s dominant performance wasn’t enough to secure his top contender status, then UFC president Dana White was more than happy to cement his position.
“Right before that fight, (Penn) said, ‘I don’t know about this fight, is this a good fight? Joe Stevenson wins this, I already fought him once,’” White said. “I said the winner of this fight is the next 155-pound challenger.
“I was blown away by Kenny’s performance. Joe Stevenson is no joke, and on the ground especially,” White added. “You can say whatever you want about Joe Daddy’s stand-up, but his ground game is superb. Kenny looked phenomenal [against Stevenson], and did exactly what he said he was going to do.”
Florian clearly wanted to send a message to the champ. And just in case Penn didn’t receive the memo, even though he was sitting front and center at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, White made sure that Penn received notice.
“BJ better stay on his game and stay focused,” White warned the champ.