A work in progress: Kenny Florian pushes fighting aside for budding broadcast career

Photo via FUEL TV

Ahead of his commentary duties at UFC on FUEL TV 8 tonight (March 2, 2013) in Japan, retired UFC fighter Kenny Florian spoke with Mike Bohn of MMAmania.com about his role as a color-commentator for the UFC and analyst for FUEL TV.

Even after over one-year working as a color-commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), retired mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Kenny Florian knows he still has plenty of work to do when it comes to his broadcasting career.

Much like time as a professional fighter --where he challenged for the UFC lightweight and featherweight championship belts-- Florian is never entirely satisfied with his body of work and is always striving to improve.

"It's something that I'm committed to getting better at," Florian told MMAmania.com. "I've actually just started doing some workshops and other different classes over here in L.A., to get better at everything, whether it's ‘UFC Tonight' stuff and the on-air commentary for the live fights, it's something that I'm still getting better at, I want to get better at -- I feel like Jon [Anik] and I are really starting to get our groove and be comfortable working the fights together."

Along with serving as an analyst for the UFC's official weekly news program ‘UFC Tonight' on FUEL TV every Tuesday night, Florian is ---alongside Jon Anik-- one-half of the UFC's B-team for cageside commentary during live events.

The pair announces UFC cards that air on FX and FUEL TV, while Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan handle commentary duties for pay-per-view (PPV) and FOX events.

To date, Florian and Anik have called 15 fight cards as a duo (UFC on FUEL TV 8 will be number 16); but even with well over 100 fights of experience under his belt, the former Boston College varsity soccer player is always working to get better in a number of areas, including the tone and pacing of his voice.

"I don't think I'm the most exciting guy," Florian said of his flaws in commentary. "I don't have that strong voice or, you know, Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg have these booming voices that get me fired up when I watch the fights. I don't think I'm -- I'm definitely not at that level where my voice or the way I say things is going to get people excited, but my number one priority is calling the action the way I see it and explaining, just explaining the way in laymen's terms so people can understand the art of what's going on, especially on the ground.

"A lot of people don't understand, some of them are watching the UFC for the first time and they get when someone hits somebody, but on the ground the movements that are made and how things are set up, I always try to explain that the best that I can so those guys understand the sport and come to appreciate what the guys are doing."

Every time Florian pops on the headset, he is trying to ensure he is consistent in how he calls the action from opening bell of the first fight to the end of the main event.

Florian typically calls between 10 and 12 fights over the course of a six to seven hour period and has recognized the importance of maintaining the same energy level from start to finish.

"It can be difficult, especially if you're calling 12 fight, it can really be about pacing yourself as the night goes on." Florian explained. "That's one thing I've learned to do with experience is pace yourself though the Facebook fights then the prelims then once you get to the main card be excited about those."

While some uneducated fans of the sport may view Florian's job as easy because, from their point of view, all he is doing it talking about and breaking down fights -- the job is much more difficult than that.

In order to be efficiently prepared for each fight card or episode of ‘UFC Tonight,' Florian is required to put in countless hours of thorough research, a task that is certainly time consuming, but one "Ken-Flo" enjoys taking part in.

"There was a time where I would remember everybody's name, I could - I knew everyone who was going to fight," Florian explained. "But now there's just so many cards where you really have to follow what's going on out there and find the cards that I do research and everything from getting packets from the UFC and videos, looking up things on YouTube and watching video on new fighters coming in to the UFC for the first time, looking at stats online, I have some people I use who feed me information and all that stuff.

"It's just matter of keeping in contact with what's going on in the sport every single day and watching. I love watching fights anyways, so I just do a lot of research that way and also meet with guys like Sean Shelby and Joe Silva, matchmakers for the UFC and make sure everything is cross-referenced and correct."

Beginning in February 2012, Florian had charismatic UFC light heavyweight No. 1 contender Chael Sonnen join him as a co-host on ‘UFC Tonight' in a move many believe has boosted the overall quality of the 30-minute program.

Sonnen, like Florian, is a natural when it comes to having a microphone and camera stuck in his face. As the self-described combination of "the greatest hair on television," Florian relishes working with Sonnen, specifically because of the fact he is able to banter back-and-forth with another educated mind.

"Chael's crazy but he's a funny guy and a fun guy to work with," Florian said on Sonnen. "We have a good time and just kind of have the opportunity to just rip and give our opinions as fighters and we don't always agree on things, but that's the cool thing because we get to discuss it on the show and have differing opinions and give, you know, guys who come from two different background, our opinion on the fight game.

"Chael's so good at what he does, he works hard and it's just fun to work with him."

Spending so much of his time opening up with his thoughts and perspective on television, everything Florian says it typically put under the microscope and scrutinized by viewers.

While sports broadcasting and criticism go hand-in-hand more often than not, Florian admits he gets frustrated at times, mainly by those who accuse him of showing favoritism towards certain fighters in his commentary.

"What bothers me sometimes is guys will say I'm bias, but I really don't have any bias," Florian explained. "There's no guys who I'm really like, ‘Wow this guy's such a close friend of mine and I'm going to play up what he's doing out there.' There's nothing intentional that goes on, I know that Joe [Rogan] probably gets the same criticism for his fights. You know, I just try to call the action the way I see it and try to educate the best that I can and break it down in laymen's terms so people understand."

Florian is aware his job comes with its share of pundits, but feels the perks far outweigh the downfalls. He may get a nasty e-mail or message on Twitter for making a statement others don't agree with; but the 36-year-old finds it hard to get upset when he is presented with the opportunity to fly around the world to do what he loves.

"I've had such a fun time man working these shows and going to different places and having the opportunity to go to a place like Japan and Australia and England," he said. "I mean really, really blessed man and Jon [Anik] and I have been so lucky, we've been seeing so much great fights."

Speaking of fights - it's been over one-year since Florian last stepped in the cage to compete and nine months since he officially announced his retirement from the sport.

Florian spends most of his time watching, analyzing and calling fights from just inches away, and he won't deny he doesn't get the itch to make a return to the Octagon; however at this point, he doesn't see it as a realistic goal.

With the back injury that played a key role in his retirement still nagging, Florian says mentally he could get back in the cage -- physically, though, it is just not feasible.

While nothing is ever completely out of the question, Florian's flourishing broadcast career is at the forefront of his mind and if he can't compete in the sport, why not stay as close to it as possible?

"[Fighting] is something that I always think about, but physically I've just never really been able to get back to the regular training schedule, my body won't allow it unfortunately and things are too unpredictable with this darn back injury," Florian said. "Some days I'll feel great, some days I won't feel great after training...but it's been real tough, a tough pill to swallow, but it's something I very much think about. Mentally I could do it tomorrow if my body allowed.

"Right now, I've kind of put those hopes completely off of my mind."

Tune in to UFC on FUEL TV 8: "Silva vs. Stann" tonight (March 2, 2013) at 10pm ET/7pm PT to hear Florian on color-commentary duties for the Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann headlined event at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

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