Report by Anthony Springer Jr.
UFC 101 is aptly titled “Declaration.” The organization’s first foray into Philadelphia marks the return of one its most charismatic and outspoken champions. “The Prodigy”B.J. Penn (13-5-1) hopes to rebound from a one sided beating at the hands of Georges St-Pierre at UFC 94 and continue to cement his legacy as one of the sports best pound-for-pound fighters.
Standing in his way is the ever improving Kenny “Ken Flo” Florian (13-3) who is looking to make a statement of his own. While Florian has great respect for Penn, he believes UFC 101 will be his time to “kill the master.” This fight marks Florian’s second shot at UFC gold. He dropped a previous title bout to Sean Sherk at UFC 64.
Florian now admits that he wasn’t properly training for the Sherk fight, and insists that his next shot at the belt won’t end like the first.
“Against Sean Sherk, I wasn’t training like a professional athlete,” Florian says. “You can’t just train when you have fights. The only way you get better is to train all the time. My goal when I go to the gym is just to get one percent better.”
Better might be an understatement. Since the loss to Sherk, Florian has finished his last seven opponents via (T)KO or submission. “I use[d] [the losses] as fuel,” Florian says of his dramatic improvement. “I’m never satisfied with each performance I have. I’ll go back and watch it two weeks later and think, ‘Man that was terrible.’”
Despite coming in as a heavy favorite, Penn is not taking the up and coming challenger lightly.
“He’s improved in all areas; he’s much more determined and he’s in better shape,” Penn says of Florian’s skills. “He’s a lot better than the guy that fought Sean Sherk.”
Though Florian has greatly improved, the world of mixed martial arts does not remain stagnant. Look for Penn to rebound from his loss to GSP and come out looking to make a statement.
“I lost my last fight and I want to get back to form. I’m itching and I’m anxious and I want to get in the ring and take care of business,” Penn says.
Penn has already made waves online after a YouTube video of the lightweight champion jumping out of a swimming pool. Another video posted at UFC.com shows a renewed, focused and fit Penn training for the Florian fight. While Penn stopped short of saying we would see a new and improved B.J. Penn, the videos speak for themselves.
UFC 101 will mark a homecoming of sorts for Florian. The Philadelphia location is just hours from his Boston stomping grounds. In addition to a budding career as a broadcaster (which Florian says he put on hold for training), the Bostonian also had to deal with increased requests for tickets—something he handled with ease.
“I just tell everybody to go to Ticket Master,” Florian says. “I just defer all the questions to somebody else; don’t bother me about tickets—I’ve got enough to worry about with my training.”