Retired UFC fighter and current UFC Tonight analyst Kenny Florian has seen a bit of everything over the course of his eight years with the UFC. The versatile former fighter will join Jon Anik tomorrow night in Brazil to call UFC Fight Night 29 live on FOX Sports 1. MMAFrenzy caught up with Florian for a quick Q&A session ahead of tomorrow’s fight card to discuss a variety of topics including wrestling, TUF, tomorrow’s card, and more.
For someone who was never known as a wrestler during your career in MMA you seem to have a solid handle on understanding wrestling’s concepts and terminology. How much studying have you done to be able to explain the sport like you do now?
You know in the last couple of years I have really studied wrestling both in my career and after. As a fighter that was something I really wish I had picked up sooner. I was around wrestling and understood wrestling to a certain point but I never spent any time in a wrestling room around just wrestlers and just hanging out in that environment, and that’s what’s required in the study of anything. You have to immerse yourself. [Doing that] just opened up my eyes to the true beauty and art of the sport.
Having excellent coaches and spending time in the Boston University and Princeton University wrestling rooms, heading to Montreal and training with some of the Olympic the wrestlers up there, and watching Flowrestling online it just gave me a greater appreciation for it. It is just not talked about enough considering that when you at College and High School it is a major sport. Unfortunately, we didn’t have it at my high school but it is something that should be appreciated.
Weigh-ins have come under scrutiny after the unfortunate death of Leandro Santos in Brazil. Do you think there needs to be any changes implemented by either the commissions or promotions when it comes to weigh-ins?
I think a lot of it is on the fighters themselves. It is about the responsibility of the fighters and the training partners, coaches, and trainers. I think it really falls on them. It is hard to be a watch dog for every fighter out there. A lot of times these things are happening in hotel rooms, in saunas, in bathtubs, etc. So I think it is hard to keep track of everything that happens.
Everyone gets educated on that and the UFC is big on it. When you are talking about the UFC you are checked immediately once you arrive on fight week, Burt Watson handles a lot of that. He makes sure everyone’s weights are recorded and checks throughout the week to avoid extreme weight cuts. If a fight needs to be changed in weight, they handle it ahead of time.
There are things organizations can do but a lot of it falls on the trainers and fighters themselves.
Coincidently, this past episode of The Ultimate Fighter 18 focused on the struggles of fighters keeping their weight’s down in the house. Having been an original member of the show, how hard is it for fighters to keep their weight down in the house?
Yeah, for me it wasn’t hard since I was at middleweight on the show weighing 178-pounds and trying to gain weight but you really do have to watch it carefully knowing you could fight on short notice. You have to keep it closer to where you fight at because you could be picked at a moments notice. You can’t be walking around like you do normally where your weight goes up after a fight since you have a short turnaround.
How interesting has it been to see The Ultimate Fighter run as long as it has and create many of the fighters we see in the UFC today having been there in the beginning?
It is very interesting. I haven’t had the time to watch every single season but watching the Rousey vs. Tate in season 18 it still has relevance to me. I still find it intriguing to watch the development of these fighters in addition to being in the house and the tournament. I think the fans still enjoy it and I think it attracts new fans to the sport as well. I think that’s what my season [season one] did, it attracted people to the sport and allowed people to align themselves with fighters and become fans. I think each show allows fans to do that.
You currently work on UFC Tonight and you call fights for the UFC. Which of the two do you prefer and how do you like working with Chael Sonnen?
I love working on both really. I think calling fights is one of the most exciting jobs there is and I love working with Jon Anik. I think it is really exciting for me and breaking down fights and seeing what will happen is awesome. UFC Tonight is also fun in its in own way. Working with Chael is great and we have a great rapport on the show. Obviously we disagree at times, and that comes out but we have a great time and it is really a family with everyone we work with.
Our preparations and deliveries are different but our goal is the same. We do a lot of preparation with table reads and prompter reads, and sometimes the live shows get a little hectic. Working on live TV can get a little crazy at times and the same thing with commentary. That is what makes it both fun and exciting.
It always seems that some fans believe that, no matter who calls the fights, there is a bias in the commentary for a certain fighter. How do you deal with that as an analyst and how much of it is just trying to give an accurate portrayal of the action rather than bias?
[Laughs] That’s exactly what it is! You know if a fighter lands five punches and the other guy lands zero, I am not being bias, I am telling you what he is doing! It can be frustrating and it is tough with the fans. I was talking to a football analyst and he was telling me that wherever he calls games that fans come up to him after and ask “why do you hate our team so much?”
We had a laugh about it but it is true. I think that the fans often come in with a bias of the fight and they want to see their guy get applauded more than the other guy. I don’t know. It is tough to deal with it.
You and Jon Anik have sort of become “the away team” for whenever the UFC travels outside of the US. What is it like for you be able to travel and experience the different feel of each country or city?
It’s cool! Jon and I are kind of the international team for the UFC. It is really interesting to see how the different cultures and national fans react to MMA. Brazil is always crazy, there are lines hours before the fights even start. It is always cool to see the passion of the fans and the knowledge of the UFC in these places.
At the same time, it is tiring because you have long flights, time changes, and funny start times. In Japan, you will be in the middle of the night and Australia you are up at four or five in the morning. We go for six hours straight, about two Super Bowls, and that is a lot of talking on camera. Not a lot of broadcast teams do that in any sport. Calling thirteen or fourteen fights take their toll but I love it and would trade it for anything.
Is there any fight on the UFC Fight Night 29 lineup, outside of the main and co-main, that you would tell fans not to miss?
Theres a bunch but Assunção and Dillashaw is definitely one that caught my eye. These are two of the best bantamweights and it is such a tough one to call! Both are really on fire. You look at what Assunção is doing and then you see Dillashaw knocking people out, and he’s a wrestler, and I think you’re going to get a true contender out of that one.
A few weeks ago we saw an epic battle at UFC 165 between light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, where do you rank that fight among the fights you have seen in your career?
It is definitely one of, if not the greatest title fight of all time. It was also one of the best fights I have seen period. It was such a great fight. When you have a dominant champion like Jones tested for every single round it is special. It was such a close and dramatic fight. It was a very interesting fight from the opening bell. I immediately felt that we were going to see these guys fight several more times down the road. It was just such an amazing clash of styles and I look forward to seeing it again.
With so much of the focus often on the upper weights do you think the strong year we have seen from the lower weights (155 and below) could lead to a break out year for a lighter guy in 2014?
I think so. I think it is time to appreciate the skill levels of a lot of these guys. If you look at [UFC interim bantamweight champion] Renan Barão, he is one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC period. The variety of techniques he uses and the level of finishing skill he has is incredible.
If there is another guy who isn’t a featherweight or lower but still does not have that respect level of the upper weight fighters it is Anthony Pettis. He just took the belt from Benson Henderson and Henderson was on an incredible run in what is, in my opinion, the toughest division in the UFC and Pettis dominates him. I am very, very impressed with Pettis and the variety of techniques he uses is incredible. I think he is one of those guys that is a star today but a superstar tomorrow.
Be sure to follow Kenny Florian on twitter at @kennyflorian and make sure to tune in tomorrow as he calls the fights with Jon Anik live from the Jose Correa Arena in Barueri, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Also make sure to check out with Florian’s studio partner, Chael Sonnen, had to say about tomorrow’s main event to Fighters.com’s John Petit.