Kenny Florian was widely regarded as the clear cut number one contender in the crowded 155-pound division following his win over Roger Huerta via unanimous decision at UFC 87: “Seek and Destroy” on August 9.
But his second chance at championship gold never came.
That’s because current lightweight champion, BJ Penn, was set to rematch welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94: “St. Pierre vs. Penn 2” at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 31, putting the division strap temporarily on ice.
Rather than sitting on the sidelines and waiting his turn, Florian decided to keep busy. And he wasn’t taking fights with “slouches” or “cans” to ensure that he remained atop the title contender totem pole.
On the contrary, he accepted a very dangerous fight against Joe Stevenson at UFC 91: “Couture vs. Lesnar” at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas back on November 15. It was high profile bout between two fighters who have each missed out on winning the vacant division title.
Florian dominated “Daddy” in the first round, finishing the former TUF 2 winner via rear naked choke for his sixth straight win. Aside from his unanimous decision loss to Sean Sherk at UFC 64 ‘Unstoppable,’ Florian hasn’t tasted defeat since being overwhelmed by Diego Sanchez at the TUF 1 finale in April of 2005.
Now that UFC 94 is in the books and BJ Penn is (hopefully) set to defend his title against the Boston native at some point this summer, Florian is hoping to take a page out of the St. Pierre handbook by traveling to Canada’s Tri-Star gym, headed by Firas Zahabi, to train with “Rush” in preparation for his title shot, according to The Fight Network.
Florian is based out of his own gym in Brookline, Mass., Florian Martial Arts Center, which he owns with his brother, Keith. In addition, Florian trains at F-15 Training Center with Peter Welch his boxing coach. His Muay Thai and MMA Coach is Mark DellaGrotte.
The trip to Canada is a logical one. Vaseline notwithstanding, no fighter in history has been able to nullify the Hawaiian’s gameplan like St. Pierre did in their second outing. The welterweight champ dominated Penn in every round, forcing his corner to throw in the towel prior to the fifth frame in a surprisingly one-sided contest.
The same strategies probably won’t work for Florian, who does not possess the physical abilities that St. Pierre does. Still, it’s easy to see the value in training with a fighter who has already faced (and beaten) your opponent on two occasions.
The rest is up to Florian.