This is a behind the scenes look at being with my teammates of Team Florian on the road to victory. It starts much earlier than you think to prepare for a fight. We have a mantra that I drilled into Kenny’s head 2 years ago. “There is no off season.” It is very important if you want to be a pro to act like one. Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are not going out partying for weeks on end after they finish their latest competition; and they stay in shape all season long. This is generally a big problem for most fighters. You let them “off the chain” and they go nuts and gain 30 lbs over their fight weight – not a smart practice in my opinion. Kenny, like many other athletes, is a genetically gifted. In the sense that he has the heart of a marathon runner – it does not quit. One of his other gifts is that he packs on muscle quickly. Since we started, coming up on 2 years ago, he has packed on 12 lbs of muscle and lost 5 % of his body fat. You might say that’s not much but in my experience, without steroids, that’s unreal!
Although this is ultimately the goal for all of us: to increase lean muscle mass, and decrease body fat, it can create problems with weight cutting. The leaner an athlete is the tighter the cut. You have to be on top of everything you do the weeks before and the week of the fight. Food and water intake is critical to monitor while at the fight. This essential is a large part of what I do for Kenny, the whole team, and my other fighters. UFC 87 was a pivotal point in Kenny’s career. He wanted to show Roger, “A whole new level”. We all had to bring our games to the next level. For me that was actually playing chef for Kenny, Keith, and some of the other guys that roomed with me. As luck would have it, a Residence Inn was one block away from Kenny’s hotel. That is where I set up, what we jokingly called, KHOP ( Kevin’s house of pancakes) Although until weigh in day, Kenny would not see a whiff of those light fluffy buttermilk treats. Sorry bro, Dr. Evil’s orders.
Normally what I do for a fight is fly in 5 days before with my buddy Scott Rehm. We are the ground control group. Our job is to get to know the hotel staff, the chefs, managers, gyms, and the list go on. We want everything to run as smoothly as possible. This way Kenny can focus on what he needs to do and not the BS. Generally I will get to know the kitchen staff and work with them on eliminating hidden sodium and fat. The word from my counter part Jesse Kropelneki, the sports nutritionist, was a 7 to 9lb cut. I refused to let this happen. Since we were at the Residence Inn, which has a full kitchen, I decided to cook all of Kenny’s meals – well at least as much as he could tolerate from me. The first place my buddy Scott and I went to was Whole Foods. Kenny likes to eat as cleanly as possible. We loaded up on eggs, egg whites, ground turkey breast, chicken, Fage, fruit, and veggies – oh yeah, and a lot of spices – my boy likes his stuff wicked spicy.
By the time we arrived back around 1:00 pm, I immediately started cooking my butt off. I boiled three dozen eggs for him. Then I made Kenny and Keith a chicken stir fir with spinach onions and garlic. They were arriving at 3:30 pm and I wanted the food ready. Our new friends were Amy and Nick Mathewson , the managers at the Residence Inn. They both were indispensable all week. Nick covered everything for us. The refill eatery after the weigh in, cabs, shopping, and list continues. When Kenny and Keith arrived the food was ready and still hot. He ate, checked his weight and I then went into overdrive. I pulled out my binder and went through what we needed to do for food and water for the day. Kenny knows what needs to get done; I’m there to remind him along the way. My start time on Tuesday was 4:30am. I did not go to bed until 12:30 am.
Wednesday start time was 8:00 am. Upon waking I immediately made breakfast for Scott and myself then went to work on making Kenny spicy ground turkey with green beans. Around 10:30 that morning, I receive a text from Kenny that said “Fage and blueberries would be great.” Fage is Greek yogurt that is very high in protein and low in fat. I walk my 2 blocks over to his place; check my watch to see when Peter Welch and Kru Mark Dellagrotte come in and think to myself: I should have lunch ready for them as well. The rest of the day I spent cooking and running errands for whatever we needed. About 10:45pm, I finished with Kenny and was having a drink in the Marriott with some friends, and my text goes off – Kenny. “I would really like an egg white omelet with spinach and onions”. I text back: “No problem, in 20 minutes.” I rush back to my room and start cooking again. I make it back by 11:20 pm. Kenny eats and needs some stretching work done. Wednesday ends at 1:45 am for me.
Thursday start time was 8:30am. Thursday was pretty much the same pace as the previous day, except we had a new roomy that came in, Peter Welch. He likes to call me “Little Emeril” when I start going nuts in the kitchen. Also some friends came in to watch the fight: Keith Thompson from Tristar martial arts in Maryland and Tim Barchard form Tim Barchard’s Professional martial arts in Derry, NH. They both are big fans of Kenny’s, clients and friends of mine. After taking care of breakfast for Peter, Kenny, and myself I ran into my friend Bruce Connal from ESPN and who wanted to workout. We assembled a small group together of Zuffa, ESPN and friends and I performed a micro seminar. After various running around which included cooking, recording, and stretching Kenny, my Thursday ended at 12:15am. Friday is D DAY!
Kenny’s weight had been coming down quite gradually and I was confident it would be around a 6 lb cut. Friday was weigh-in day! My day started at 7:30am: I cooked breakfast for whoever was up and ran a few last minute detail errands. Around 10:00 am Kenny texts me that we are going to the prelim weigh-in. We get he numbers; he has to cut 6.5 lbs, much better than 9lbs. After a brief organization meeting with the team, we all get everything we need for the cut. The cut time started at 12:30 pm, pick up for weigh-in was at 3:30 pm. Before finishing the cut Alex Karalexis showed up to help. This is the toughest day for Kenny, he says: “this is why I get paid, fight day is when I get paid.” Although this part sucks for him he has told me he considers it a right of passage, like walking through fire. We had one big hiccup with the cut. I gave the bag with our scale to Alex. This scale is necessary that we know we are on target with his weight. The bag opened on the way and on our way back to the hotel room the scale broke. I saw the look on Kenny’s face. His stress level just went up 2 more notches. No one wants to cut weight and arrive at the
weight in and realize they did not cut enough, We encourage Kenny the last check was accurate, you are on the money.
I’m fortunate to be the one Kenny brings with him to weigh in. I carry his food for after and anything else he needs. For me it is an honor and it’s what he and I have been trying to do all week: make the weigh on the mark. I could feel his level of stress as we waited in line. I could not blame him; I can only imagine what was running through his mind, plus the fact that his opponent is right in front of him.
Kenny weighed in at 155.5 at 4:02 pm. I could feel the sense of relief come over him and me as well. He still had the thought to look at me and pat me on the back. No words needed to be said I knew what he meant: good job and I could not have done it without you. My answer would have been, thanks but this is a team effort, and you did the work bro.
Kevin Kearns AkA Dr. Evil has been a S and C coach for more than 20 years. His client list includes # 1 UFC lt weight Contender Kenny Florian, Stephan Bonnar, Kurt Pellegrino, Alberto Crane, Alex Karalexis, Daniel Gracie, Mark Dellegrotte, Marcus Davis, and list continues. He recently released his Burn With Kearns Basement tapes for MMA conditioning . He is available for seminars and workshops. You may contact him at Kevin@burnwithkearns.com or speak to Ron Wienberg at 5086537401.