Home field advantage doesn't quite yield the same benefits in mixed martial arts as it does in say, football.
But it certainly doesn't hurt.
When perennial top UFC lightweight contender Kenny Florian graces the Octagon on Saturday night in front of his hometown fans, a distinct feeling of comfort and confidence will come over him. Will pressure come with it? Maybe. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
With another shot at 155-pound gold on the line at UFC 118 against Gray Maynard, Florian is well aware that he can't take receiving title shots for granted. Should he win, Kenny will most likely fight for the UFC lightweight championship for a third time. He can't let this opportunity pass him by.
And he doesn't plan to.
This time, KenFlo talked to MMAmania.com about the benefits of fighting in his hometown, what it's like working with Firas Zahabi and Georges St. Pierre, the evolution of MMA training and more.
Have a read:
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): When we talked a couple months ago you said you thought the fact that you are fighting in your hometown of Boston would be a benefit. Is that still the case with just a week before the fight? How are the ticket requests coming?
Kenny Florian: It's really not that bad, you know. Thankfully with each fight I get more experience and dealing with everything outside of the actual fight becomes more and more easier. It's great too because I'll be near home where I can eat what I'm used to, I'm comfortable with all my surroundings and I get to stay at my own home. It's a lot better than being cooped-up in some hotel room. For the purpose of cutting weight and things like that, it's certainly a benefit. And obviously I'm very comfortable with this city.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): UFC UK boss Marshall Zelaznik recently told ESPN that if BJ wins decisively against Frankie and you beat Gray, he thinks BJ would probably move up to welterweight because of how your first fight went. Does that comment bother you at all?
Kenny Florian: I don't know if that's true or not. I'm not sure how close Marshall is to BJ and how privy he is to his career decisions. It's irrelevant to me though. I'm here to fight the best. If BJ is around, than that's great. But a lot of things need to happen for that scenario to even play out. He needs to beat Frankie Edgar, I need to beat Gray Maynard. I don't really like talking about hypotheticals.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Were you surprised by the Takanori Gomi vs. Tyson Griffin fight and how it played out? Do you think Gomi was better than when he fought you or is your stand up just that much better than Griffin's?
Kenny Florian: I don't think I'm that much better than Griffin or Gomi. I just think style wise Griffin didn't match up with Gomi that well. Griffin is a guy who likes to get in your face and be toe-to-toe and he's doesn't use as much movement. Both guys like to stand in front of each other. Against Gomi, I had the advantage of being the bigger guy with a longer reach. I was able to establish my jab and Gomi just couldn't get a rhythm, he had to be very careful with the takedowns too. I was able to thwart his offensive game as well. I think that was the difference. Styles make fights and it just happened to be my night. Griffin just picked the wrong type of approach against a guy like Gomi.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): I want to ask you again about training with Firas Zahabi and the Tri-Star team with Georges St. Pierre. Training with that camp I would think has improved your wrestling tremendously. Is that the one thing you would say that has evolved in your game the most since the switch?
Kenny Florian: I would actually say more than anything else Firas really changed my whole striking style. He was very much in accordance with Peter Welch in the fact hat I needed to be doing more boxing. He broke me down physically to what I need to do to not beat most of the guys, but all of the guys in the lightweight division. We spoke about it after the BJ fight. This guy is just on a completely different level than anyone I've ever worked with when it comes to striking. That's why I made the decision to work with him. But my wrestling has improved 100% too because of the wrestling partners I have. Obviously training with Georges St. Pierre and having access to the Montreal Wrestling Club with the world-class guys they have there is huge. Just being able to drill with them has completely overhauled my wrestling game. The move has really changed my game, there's no doubt about it.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): In a recent issue of Fight Magazine you talked about how MMA is a century behind boxing in terms of training. Elaborate on that for me if you would. Do you think guys like Firas Zahabi are the future?
Kenny Florian: Yeah, I definitely think so. There are some things that boxers do really well. My comment on that really had to do more with the technical aspect of boxing. It's very standardized. The technique has been refined and streamlined. A lot of people in mixed martial arts have different approaches, which is good. But I'd say 80% of them are wrong. I think that's where we are still new compared to boxing. But when it comes to training, I think boxing is very old school. They do a lot of silly things like running and rope work. Those are things that have been done for years and have been done by all the champions before today's current crop. There are very few guys who do high-level training. Many Pacqiuao I would say is one of them. Doing real functional conditioning, you know? Stuff that will actually help them in a fight.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Does watching what happened at UFC 117 between a striker like Anderson Silva and a wrestler like Chael Sonnen, though they are extremes in their skill set, affect your approach to fighting a dominant wrestler like Gray Maynard?
Kenny Florian: Yeah, for sure. Chael is a phenomenal wrestler, as is Gray. Anderson certainly doesn't have the experience in wrestling like Chael, as I don't compared with Gray. But I think I have a lot of rest training partners that have helped me improve in that. I've been working on my wrestling and drilling very hard now for a couple years. I know I have the best sparring partner in the world to prepare for Gray, Georges St. Pierre. There's no way Gray is gong to be stronger than GSP. There's no way he's gonna be a better wrestler than Georges. He's not gonna be faster. He's not gonna be bigger. Those are all things I know I'm prepared for. Training with Georges has given me a lot of confidence going into this fight. Hopefully I can show my wrestling has improved tremendously. I'm honestly going out there with the expectation to out-wrestle Gray. I don't know if that's gonna happen, but my goal is to out-wrestle him.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Talk about training with GSP a bit. What's it like working with someone who just seems to be in a different stratosphere when it comes to preparing for a fight. How far along in his career do you think he is? Still room for improvement?
Kenny Florian: There's definitely still room for improvement with Georges. He's still getting better. As good as his wrestling is now, it's getting better. His jiu-jitsu is getting better. His striking is getting better. He's always working on developing new things. They work on new things for ach fight. He definitely hasn't reached his peak yet, which is scary. The kid works so hard. He's one of the hardest working fighters in the game, if not the hardest working. Training with Georges is inspiring. It brings out the best in me. Even if I'm not going with him but I know he's on the mat, I feel like I have to step it up. It's a weird energy when he's in there. We push each other a lot. He's helped me tremendously. Both physically and mentally.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Alright, with out giving too much away, how do you see the fight playing out? Do you think he'll stand and trade with you or shoot for the takedown the first time he has a chance? How does this one end?
Kenny Florian: I'm not sure really. It depends on what he wants to do. I think Gray knows this is a huge fight for him. The title shot is maybe closer to him than me. That's probably what he's feeling. I think he'll do whatever he can to get the win. He'll try to stand with me in the beginning, keep it close on the feet, and make sure its not a bow out, then look for takedown late in the round to steal the round. I think that's the approach he'll take. Gray's not he most exciting fighter, that's not a knock on him. He's undefeated. But I think we'll see a boring game plan from him. That's what he needs to do if he wants to get the win. Be boring and play his typical game that's made him successful.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Thanks again for your time Kenny. Any sponsors or websites you'd like to plug?
Kenny Florian: Thanks man. I want to thank TapouT. Check out kennyflorian.com. Fans can check me out on Twitter @Kenny_Florian. And of course thanks to Florian Martial Arts Center, Firas Zahabi, Peter Welch, Jonathan Chaimberg and the Montreal Wrestling Club.