Kenny Florian is on the march back to the top of the heap at 155 pounds.
After losing his title fight against current champion BJ Penn at UFC 101, he followed it up with arguably his most impressive performance to date with a complete and utter dominance of Clay Guida at UFC 107.
A shot at the former PRIDE FC lightweight champion Takanori Gomi now waits in the wings in what would be a huge resume builder for Florian as he tries to convince UFC management to one day grant him his third career title shot.
Ultimate Fight Night: ‘Florian vs. Gomi' is set to take place on Wednesday, March 31 from the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"Ken Flo" took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss why he lost to Penn, Gomi's struggles in recent years, and his quest to find a retail store that still sells quality turtlenecks.
Check it out:
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Let's go back to your fight with BJ Penn at UFC 101 real quick. Can you tell me what the basic game plan for the fight was and why you were not able to execute the way you would have liked?
Kenny Florian: It was to strike with BJ on my terms, but I could not get my range going. Nothing was going right and that's why I had to switch it up in the moment and try to take him down, which wasn't working. I knew heading into that fight it was going to be a tough night. I did a lot of things wrong. Against BJ you better be on your game and he was the better man that night.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Penn gets Frankie Edgar next at UFC 112. What does Edgar need to do to win the fight and do you think he ultimately pulls it off?
Kenny Florian: In the fight game anything can happen. I definitely think BJ is human and he can be beaten. Is BJ the favorite? Definitely, but Frankie Edgar is one of those guys that works very hard. He's well-rounded, quick, and he's a tough kid. He's an underdog that has been proving people wrong for a long time, so he could pull it off.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You're coming off an impressive victory over Clay Guida at UFC 107. The first thing I said after the fight ended was, "Wow, that was probably the best version of Kenny Florian we have ever seen." Do you feel like you're the best you've ever been right now?
Kenny Florian: I definitely feel I've grown a tremendous amount since the BJ Penn fight. I learned a lot. Heading into the Guida fight I was able to demonstrate some of my new "stuff" and I've continued off of that momentum. I've improved my skills a lot. I think I'm slowly molding myself into a much more dangerous fighter. I'm way more precise and definitely adding more weapons to the arsenal. I'm just enjoying myself. That is the key. I'm having a lot of fun training right now.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How much of that do you attribute to your continued work with Firas Zahabi?
Kenny Florian: He's definitely been a great impetus for change. He is a mastermind when it comes to strategy and really studying the technical aspects of the mixed martial arts game. I think he's doing things that very few people are doing. All of my coaches really deserve a lot of credit. I think they've really upped the ante. They've dedicated themselves to me as well, as far as improving their skills as coaches, and getting me to come on board with their philosophies and training. I've been spending a lot of time with my brother Keith, my boxing coach Peter Welch, and everyone seems to be on the same page as far as continuing to learn and improve. It's been awesome.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You're now fighting Takanori Gomi on 3/31. Is that a fight you asked for, his camp asked for, or Joe Silva put together out of the blue?
Kenny Florian: I think it was something Joe Silva put together. Gomi specifically requested a tough fighter, one that was well-rounded and not just good at one aspect. He was quoted as saying that he, "Didn't just want a wrestler," or something like that. He wanted a tough opponent and they chose me. I've always been interested in fighting Gomi, but I can't take credit for the fight being put together. It's exciting. He's a big name fighter with a tremendous amount of credentials. It's a fighter I'm going to love testing myself against.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Gomi has already stated publicly that he is planning on knocking you out in the first round. Your thoughts on his ambitious prediction?
Kenny Florian: I think it's going to be very difficult for him to do that. Obviously, anything is possible, but I think he's going to find that my striking ability is going to be better than his. I think he's going to be in for a surprise. Probably in the first five seconds he's out there.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Would you concede that his overall skills have tailed off a bit over the past year or two since his heyday in PRIDE?
Kenny Florian: I wouldn't say he's necessarily dropped off. I think it's a matter of everyone else getting better. Lots of people have improved and evolved and the game is changing so quickly now. If you're not getting better you're getting worse.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): In Gomi's past few fights he's struggled with his cardio. Is this something you are conscious of and plan on testing?
Kenny Florian: It's possible. I think another thing is that we have to attribute that to him being unmotivated a little bit. It's hard to get up for fights with people who aren't that well-known when there is not a lot on the line. I think there is a lot on the line now. He's fighting in a different organization against an opponent that I hope he respects in me. I think he's going to be motivated and I'm expecting to see an in shape, great Gomi. I'm expecting to see the best Gomi we've ever seen. I don't want to fight a guy who's not looking to get in there. I'm glad he said he wants to knock me out and wants to get the belt. That means he'll train hard and fight hard.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you feel like a win over Gomi earns you the right to face the Penn/Edgar winner?
Kenny Florian: I don't know. I've kind of stopped thinking too far ahead. I'm just thinking about Gomi and that's it. I'm not looking past him. I'm open for whatever. I'm training hard, but right now it's all Gomi.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Let's move on to the more burning questions. Chuck Norris turned 70 years old recently. You're the MMA analyst. In your opinion, how much has age affected his combat skills?
Kenny Florian: The answer is simple - it hasn't at all. The man only gets better. He gets more dangerous with age.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Since I know you won't tell me what your entrance song will be on 3/31 tell me a song that there is no way in hell that you would ever use.
Kenny Florian: Let me see ... "It's Raining Men." Let's go with that. I don't think I'd ever come out to that one.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Why are you so infatuated with turtlenecks and how close are we to a full blown t-neck revolution?
Kenny Florian: (laughs) You know, it happened one time. I was walking around a store at the mall. I was kind of doing some shopping by myself and I had some time to reflect. I got angry! I thought back to when I was little and I used to put on turtlenecks and I didn't see any turtlenecks. You cannot buy a turtleneck for men! Then I thought about all the scarves, the scarf revolution. There is definitely some type of conspiracy by scarf companies that are trying to replace this wonderful piece of clothing that did it all, which was the turtleneck. It's a personal piece of clothing.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): When can fans expect to see the ‘Don't Pull Half Guard' trilogy fulfilled?
Kenny Florian: (laughs) I don't know. I'm thinking myself, Dave Camarillo, maybe Kurt Pellegrino and a couple other fighters. I've been scripting a mockumentary in my head of an MMA movie, but I'll have real fighters in it. I'd really like to put that together and follow guys around. It's going to be an explosion of tattoos, skulls, and MMA testosterone. It's going to be great.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): In other words, Camarillo is holding out for more money. Is that what you're telling me?
Kenny Florian: (laughs) Exactly. You can't work with the guy! He's a prima donna. It's unbelievable! He wants to direct, produce. I mean, the guy is unbelievable.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I feel like we've tied up a lot of loose ends. Was that cathartic for you?
Kenny Florian: I feel great.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Any sponsors you want to thank before we go?
Kenny Florian: I would like to thank Tapout, Muscle Pharm, the new KennyFlorian.com website, Florian Martial Arts Center, my training partners in Boston, Montreal and New York City, and I'd like to thank all the fans for the support.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I appreciate your time. You always come through for us. Best of luck against Gomi.
Kenny Florian: Thanks Derek.
Derek Bolender is a frequent MMAmania.com contributor. He is also a syndicated writer to FoxSports.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DerekMMAwriter.