Steve was kind enough to bring us this interview first. Promoted from the FanPosts by Kid Nate.
Prior to his UFC 101 title fight against UFC Lightweight Champion BJ Penn last month, Kenny Florian was widely considered to be the most legitimate threat to "The Prodigy" yet. After a competitive fight, Florian was promptly taken to the ground and submitted by a fresher and more powerful Penn in the fourth round, putting an end to his six-fight unbeaten streak and causing some to question his game plan going into his second shot at the lightweight title in three years.
I recently caught up with head trainer and brother of Kenny Florian, Keith Florian, in order to discuss the basics of the strategy going in against Penn, as well as some of the problems his next rumored opponent, Clay Guida, could pose for the former number one contender. Also addressed were the surprising comments made by Mark Delagrotte a few days ago regarding his split with the Florian camp.
On Strategy against BJ Penn at UFC 101 last month:
SK: Can you talk at all about the game plan going in against BJ Penn and what you think went wrong?
KF: I don’t want to discuss too much about the game plan to be honest with you, but what I can say is that it’s funny that a lot of people thought the plan had a lot to do with what GSP did [against BJ] and it really didn’t.
SK: Talking about the clinch game and that kind of stuff?
KF: Yeah, but it’s not just a clinch. There are different types of clinches. There is a clinch where you go around his arm, for example, and you try to tire out his shoulders, and at no point in time did Kenny do the overhooks on BJ to try to tire his arms; it didn’t have to do with that.
It had to do with a totally different area of his body, but we’re hopefully going to try to get there one more time and see if we can give it another shot, but I really don’t want to divulge too much on that.
On Mark Delagrotte's statements:
SK: Would you like to comment on Mark Delagrotte’s statements about you and the fact that he will not be involved with Kenny’s training from now on?
KF: I actually have a radio show on MMAMadness on Saturdays where I commented on some of that.
Basically, when it comes to fights and stuff I stay out of office politics, I don’t really know what anybody else is thinking; my only job is to take care of my fighter and think about what my fighter does, and that’s all I have to say about it.
After the jump, Keith discusses scoring the first three rounds of Penn/Florian, the problems posed by Clay Guida, how he personally scored Sanchez/Guida, and rumors of an alliance with Firas Zahabi.
SK: Would you mind giving your opinion on how the first three rounds went before Kenny got submitted in the fourth? A few days after the fight Kenny said something along the lines that one of the judges told him he was winning the fight up until that point.
KF: Yeah, one of the commissioners or doctors came by after the fight and said that either one or two of the judges has Kenny ahead going into the fourth round. I think that Kenny had a couple of those rounds—I forget exactly which ones—but basically Kenny was pushing the fight. BJ had a couple of nice hits, there is no question about that—that’s why he is the best in the world—but I think that if Kenny didn’t make that mistake in the fourth round then obviously it would have been different.
Overall, BJ fought awesome, and he took it into the fourth round, which was great for him.
SK: Do think it comes down to how each judge scores fights? Kenny seemed to be pushing the pace more, being more aggressive, while BJ was probably inflicting more damage.
KF: Definitely, I think you’re right in saying that. It just depends on who’s watching the fight and what they are looking for and what they value in fighting.
SK: How did you feel about Kenny’s preparation heading into that fight? Obviously things didn’t go as you planned, but did you feel confident going in against BJ?
KF: I was definitely confident heading into that fight. I think that there are a couple of different things we could have done, other people we could have trained with, but based on time constraints and where we are based out of, I think we did the best that we could.
On problems posed by Clay Guida and scoring Sanchez/Guida:
SK: Is it true that Kenny will be taking on Clay Guida at UFC 107 in December?
KF: No bout agreements have been signed, but it has been verbally agreed.
SK: Stylistically, what problems does Guida pose for you guys?
KF: There is no question that Guida has tremendous cardio, he has a lot of heart and he doesn’t give up; we saw that in the Diego fight. His wrestling is obviously very good and when he gets you down he is able to control you; his anti-Jiu-Jitsu is very good and that’s going to be a problem, especially since Kenny is comfortable going to his back.
We’re working on his wrestling every single day and I think we’re going to be able to show that in the fight.
SK: I wanted to get your opinion on the Sanchez/Guida fight. Everyone gave Sanchez the first round by a landslide, but in rounds 2 and 3, Guida took Sanchez down but Sanchez inflicted much more damage
from the bottom. Does it worry you that one of the judges gave the fight to Guida based on positional control?
KF: It depends again on who is judging. Guida definitely controlled Diego in the second and third rounds, but Sanchez threw some elbows in the second that he stated had come from watching Kenny; he definitely did a lot of damage and cut him on the top of the head.
I don’t think anybody has disagreed that Guida won the third round, but the first round was definitely Diego and the second is a toss-up, but I think Diego probably edged out the second round.
SK: We talked about Guida’s tenacious pace and his heart, and he has never been knocked out, but to me he showed some weaknesses in his striking game. Since Kenny is such an accurate striker, do you think that is something you guys can exploit against Guida?
KF: Absolutely. I think it’s definitely something that he can exploit and it’s something that we will be working on, but it’s just one aspect of the game and as I said before, Guida’s got tremendous takedowns and we expect Kenny to be on his back. From what I remember, [Guida] has taken down every single opponent he has fought at least once, so we expect that Kenny is going to have to fight off of his back, but we expect him to do a lot of things differently than other people have done.
SK: It seemed like Sanchez concentrated on striking off of his back, but do you think that is the wise course of action or would you go for submissions against a guy like Guida?
KF: Well, something a lot of Jiu-Jitsu people don’t utilize is striking to set up the Jiu-Jitsu; I think that changes the dynamic of the game. If you just think about Jiu-Jitsu or just striking then that’s all you’re going to be thinking about and you’re going to have your mind closed to other aspects [of the fight].
On training with Firas Zahabi:
SK: I wanted to ask who you guys are going to be training with for this fight. I know you will be in Brookline, Boston for much of the time, but there have been rumors that you will be working with Firas Zahabi and Georges St-Pierre. Is there any truth to that or are you not involved in the training camp yet?
KF: We have started training for whoever it’s going to be, and our main camp is always at Florian Martial Arts Center; that’s where Kenny is 85% of the time. He does his boxing with Peter Welch and we have brought on Firas Zahabi for the Muay Thai and tying that together.
SK: Are you working with Phil Nurse or Greg Jackson in conjunction with Zahabi, or is it mainly just Zahabi.
KF: Only Firas Zahabi.