Photo by Esther Lin via MMA Fighting
Kenny Florian didn't actually have to say anything. The look on his face painted a more vivid picture than any answer he could have provided.
His thousand-yard stare indicated his emotions much more profoundly than anything explanation could have hoped for. He had been in this position before; twice, actually. He was so close to becoming a champion but yet so far. The brass ring eluded him for a third and possibly final time.
He stepped inside Octagon last night (Oct. 8) at UFC 136 for what was widely considered to be his last chance at UFC gold. Standing toe to toe with featherweight champ Jose Aldo, "KenFlo" once again came up short in a five-round fight. He had done so against Sean Sherk and again when he challenged B.J. Penn. When his options at 155-pounds evaporated, he decided to drop down to featherweight to test the waters there.
When Florian decides to hang up his four-ounce gloves, he will do so as a successful mixed martial artist (MMA). Already one of the most popular fighters on the UFC roster due to his stint on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and an exciting fight style that saw him finish his opponents more often than not, Florian has guaranteed fans will remembered fondly. He currently holds an impressive 12-5 record in the Octagon which is incredible when considering the level of competition.
But like Charles Barkley -- who was in attendance last night -- and Patrick Ewing, Florian will forever be associated with his inability to pull the trigger or have all the dominoes fall into place at the right time and win a championship.
In a career that spans four weight classes and multiple headlining bouts, it might be what "KenFlo" didn't do that will be remembered.
Anyone who makes their living competing wants to be the best. If they say otherwise, they're lying or wasting their time. The drive that causes people to stack their talents up against someone else's doesn't usually have limitations. That particular beast is only satisfied when it is recognized as the best. And even then, it may still be hungry for more.
Take Randy Couture, for example. Here was a man who had already established himself as one of the best heavyweights in the world but looked to make a similar claim at 205-pounds. He simply wasn't satisfied.
That kind of drive is what creates athletes like Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, and Georges St. Pierre. They desperately want to be the best and we, as fans, reap the benefits of their sacrifice and near-endless training. We marvel at their abilities and it becomes water cooler fodder.
On top of his accomplishment inside the cage, he's got plenty outside he can hang his hat on. From occasionally acting as a guest color commentator for UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) to acting as co-host for ESPN's MMA Live program, "KenFlo" has proved himself to be a skilled and thoughtful analyst.
Despite all these accolades and everything else he has done during his career, he never reached the pinnacle of every fighter's desire. No one puts their body through the hell a fighter does and not hope to one day be recognized as the champion, as the best in the world. One doesn't wake up in morning, sore from head to toe from a grueling training camp, in order to become the next Joe Rogan.
It's because of this that I can't help but think Florian feels there is something missing from his career. He has finished opponents with his hands, he's choked some out and threatened to snap the limbs of others. He outlasted the likes ofRoger Huerta and Diego Nunes. His name and status has been used to help sell pay-per-view (PPV) events.
The belt is the ultimate goal. The question is this: without it, is a career considered a failure? When Florian decides to call it a day, will he have any regrets or will he look back at the time he spent inside the Octagon with satisfaction?
It's hard to argue with what Florian has done inside the Octagon. But if those actions speak for themselves, what he hasn't done -- what he hasn't accomplished -- that positively yells.
What say you, Maniacs? When all is said and done, how will you remember Kenny Florian?