Kenny Florian: Know Your Enemy

By Tristen Critchfield Feb 9, 2017
(SPONSORED CONTENT) -- While Kenny Florian retired from active mixed martial arts competition in 2012, he remains entrenched in the sport as an analyst for Fox Sports 1. It should come as no surprise then that “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 finalist would have plenty of insight to offer, both from his experience as a competitor and as an astute observer.

In this exclusive interview presented by “Halo Wars 2,” Florian discusses his training and preparation, how to navigate multiple weight classes, the transition from fighter to broadcaster and even picks the “money fight” he would take if he were still an active competitor. Hint: It is a popular choice in the Ultimate Fighting Championship these days.

Sherdog.com: How did you prepare for a fight?
Florian: I don’t know if I had the best approach back then, but I would say it came down to training all the time. Basically, as soon as a fight was done, I was trying to work on new techniques. Just learning new stuff, trying to find things that I can add to my arsenal, trying to make weakness a strength. That was always my first concern. Right after a fight, I’d go right back into training, and then, as I got close to fight preparation, I would watch video and hone in on what I need to prepare for a specific opponent. My focus in training would narrow much more, and it’d be a lot more specific training for a fight. I would go from sparring in the different disciplines -- jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling -- into just general MMA training, so I would move away from the singular aspects of mixed martial arts and focus on just MMA sparring. If I was going to do striking, it was always going to involve takedowns and vice versa. If I was going to do jiu-jitsu, it would always be with little gloves and punching and elbows.

Sherdog.com: How did you get to “know your enemy” before a fight?
Florian: The best thing that I would do would be to watch video on my opponent. Study him, study exactly what his habits are, what the patterns of his fighting style are, where the weaknesses are, where the vulnerabilities are that I can expose. I would watch a lot of video and converse with my coaches.

Sherdog.com: Did you study your opponents’ style to prepare counterattacks in advance?
Florian: Definitely, especially when it came to the submission game or looking for certain things that they would do striking-wise. Yeah, I would always try to look for ways to neuter them and also counter them. Whether it was working specific techniques, whether it was drilling certain moves, whether it was getting sparring partners that mimicked their movements or had a similar style to them, I would definitely employ all of the above there.

Sherdog.com: What did you take away from each fight that helped you prepare for the next?
Florian: I think the main thing was the learning process, understanding myself and how I react in high-pressure situations, understanding that it never stops. Whether it was a win or a loss, you always had to go back to getting better; and that’s kind of how I thought, so it was just yet another way for me to progress.

Sherdog.com: Now that you have transitioned from fighting to an analyst/studio role with Fox, how has your preparation changed?
Florian: It’s changed quite a bit. It’s the same idea. I just try to hone in on the other things that maybe I didn’t do as much in my career and just try to maybe be a better version of myself. It’s interesting because in the beginning I felt like I had to listen to so many different people and get their advice, which definitely helped me, but I think as I moved on a little bit more in my career, I’m not sure I listened to myself enough. I probably didn’t trust myself enough, if I felt a certain thing in the cage and deferred to a coach or someone who told me I should stick to a game plan or something like that. I felt like maybe I ignored myself a little bit more, and now I’m trying to just be myself and trust myself much more in doing what I do.

Sherdog.com: What fight or event stands out as the most memorable one you have had a chance to call?
Florian: That’s a tough one. I guess probably the first pay-per-view I ever did, which was the Matt Serra-Georges St. Pierre main event. It was the rematch. It was UFC 83 in Montreal. It was insane how loud it was in there. I remember I had difficulty hearing Mike Goldberg even with the headphones on. Trying to call a fight of that magnitude, my first time ever doing a show for the UFC, it was a lot, but it kind of mimicked how my fight career was, where I only had like three or four professional fights and I was thrown in the UFC without a lot of experience and had to learn on the fly. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sherdog.com: The UFC will crown its inaugural women’s featherweight champion when Holly Holm squares off against Germaine de Randamie at UFC 208. How do you see that fight playing out?
Florian: This is a very interesting fight between two of the best strikers in the world. I think Holly having more of a boxing background is going to have a lot of advantages with her footwork and her hands, but with de Randamie being in the clinch and her kicking game, she’s going to have an advantage there. I think Holm is probably the stronger fighter, physically. De Randamie is a little bit longer; I’m not sure as far as height. I think de Randamie has been able to show more of her game, and I feel like Holly Holm hasn’t really shown the totality of what she can do. I think maybe mentally she hasn’t quite been so comfortable in the cage, but I think that if she fulfills her potential of what she can do, I think she can definitely win the fight. De Randamie has shown a lot of aggression. She’s been winning fights pretty quickly lately. I think Holm’s probably even better on the ground than de Randamie. I give the advantage to Holm.

Sherdog.com: The sport has already changed tremendously since you announced your retirement. What do you expect will be the most significant development in MMA in the coming years?
Florian: I think as far as the development since I’ve been gone is people coming in with different styles and finding themselves through their style. I think that’s been a big change, whether it’s [Stephen] “Wonderboy” [Thompson] or [Cody] Garbrandt or Dominick Cruz and these guys that have really developed very unique styles. I think those are the guys that are going to be most successful. [In] this sport, you train in ways that you think the fight’s going to go. Specifically, we saw muay Thai and boxing striking styles and your typical wrestler ground-and-pound guys, but now guys are getting so good everywhere at developing a lot of unique styles that you typically don’t see; and they’re having a lot of success. I think “Wonderboy” had a lot of success early on because no one could adjust to his style. Before that, it was [Lyoto] Machida or the guy who could box and take you down. The evolution just never stops. Now I think we’re seeing guys with very, very complete games who are dangerous everywhere. It’s just finding that unique style, that hidden style, that thing that’s really hard to prepare for.

Sherdog.com: You fought in multiple weight classes before it became the trendy thing to do. What does a fighter have to do to be successful in multiple weight classes?
Florian: The main thing is that they’re fighting at the proper weight, that they actually can be successful in both weights. I was kind of forced around based on them not having [my] division for a while. I think it’s where you feel you can have the most amount of success without doing too much damage to your body in the weight-cutting process. I think there should be more of a focus on sticking to your right weight class. If you are in between weight classes and feel that you can compete with someone above and you can make some more money, then I say definitely go for it, but make sure that your body is prepared for the weight cut or the weight gain.

Sherdog.com: If you were competing today, who would be your money fight?
Florian: I’d have to go with Conor McGregor. He’s fought in two weight classes which I’ve competed in. If I was smart, which I’m probably not, that would be the fight. Anyone in those weight classes is trying to fight Conor McGregor. At least they should, because that’s the money fight, no doubt about that.

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