October 14, 2006. UFC 64. It’s a day that Kenny Florian thinks about often and uses as motivation every day in his training. Standing across the cage from him was the muscled up Sean Sherk with a UFC title on the line. Sherk’s impressive career consisted of 30 wins with only 2 loses coming to Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes. It’s a night that changed Florian’s fight preparatin forever.
Florian was fighting for the lightweight title in just his 8th professional MMA fight and two and a half years before he was stepping into the ring for the first time ever. He lost a unanimous decision.
“I wasn’t ready for that opportunity” Florian admits candidly. “I lost that fight, but it was really a blessing in disguise. After that fight I decided I needed to be a pro. Before I would train for fights just before fights. After that fight against Sherk I dedicated myself to being a professional all year round and not just training when I had a fight coming up.”
Florian hired a full time Strength and Conditioning coach in Kevin Kearns and began to work with a nutritionist, training and working on his game 365 days a year.
The results were immediate. Florian won his next 6 fights and only one of those (a decision win over Roger Huerta at UFC 87) went the distance.
“I began to take this fighting thing very seriously” he jokes. “I wanted to finish fights. To put guys away. I didn’t want a easy road back to the title and I’ve worked my way up and believe I’ve earned this shot. I can’t wait to put my skills to the test against the best BJ Penn.”
Penn is no push over. Arguably one of the greatest fighters the world has ever seen Penn is coming off a humbling defeat to Georges St. Pierre in January and Florian knows Penn will be his best Saturday night.
“BJ will be motivated coming off that loss to Georges. He will want to make a statement and show everyone why he is the champ at 155 lbs. My job is to not let him do that.”
37 UFC’s and 6 straight wins later Florian is a completely new fighter and ready to take on another title challenge. He will be the underdog once again, but understands that and knows this time will be different.
The fight with Sherk was as important to his career as any one of his wins and Florian knows that.
“That loss to Sherk was probably the best thing to ever happen to me”.
After UFC 101, Florian is hopeful he’ll be able to replacement that moment with something even better.