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My life as a UFC fighter
My life as UFC commentator and show host is vastly different than when I was a full-time fighter. Ever since being forced into retirement due to a back injury, a day hasn’t gone by where I don’t miss fighting. However, I am extremely thankful that I’m still able to participate in the sport that I love, MMA. Here is Part 1 of my article detailing my first love, fighting.
Kenny Florian, The Fighter (2005-2011)
As a professional fighter competing in the UFC, I didn’t have much free time. I started my career quite late--at 28 years old--so I always spent all the time I had training, studying and learning as much as I could about mixed martial arts. I didn’t take a vacation for six years straight because I had a lot of time to make up and honestly, I simply loved to train. For much of my fighting career I had to play both coach and fighter. I always had great trainers and guidance but I also had to figure out what techniques and styles would work best for me and many times it varied according to whom I was fighting. At the time, the art of MMA was still evolving and not too many coaches completely understood it. Because of this, my coaches came from many different backgrounds and specialties.
Repair work between rounds at UFC 118 against Gray Maynard
After completing my time on The Ultimate Fighter, I entered the UFC knowing I needed to approach my training like an uber-professional. Each fight was an experience that taught me a lot about the sport and it taught me even more about myself. I started off training six days a week, twice a day, Monday through Friday, with one training session on Saturday. Later in my career, my training increased to three times per day, Monday through Friday with one session on Saturday. If I could get away with it, I would sneak in another session on Saturday or Sunday. I became obsessed.
Not every training camp was optimal, but I always felt I was improving with each time. Often, I did too much and sometimes my priorities were out of order. For example, I regret not having a private wrestling coach much earlier in my career. I didn’t come from a wrestling background, so I should’ve spent the most time working on that discipline. The mistakes you make in training will always find a way of revealing themselves in a painful manner in the Octagon. Hindsight is 20/20.
Joe Rogan interviews Florian at UFC 91 after his win against Joe Stevenson
At first glance, fighting appears to be a one-on-one sport. I would be alone competing in the Octagon, but I always felt like I was representing a team. From my first Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor Roberto Maia in Boston, to my final MMA coach Firas Zahabi from Tristar in Montreal, I would always fight with them in mind. I was proud to be their student and would prepare hard to prove their training methods in the cage. It was my body, combined with much of my coaches’ knowledge that you would see on fight night. My goal was to seek out the best in every field to help me with my game. Strength and conditioning, nutrition, BJJ, wrestling, boxing, muay thai and any other art that I found useful was all part of the daily routine. Finding the right regimen and right mix of techniques is an art in and of itself.
Video was a big part of my training as well: I studied fight footage in various arts and, of course, my opponents. I searched for patterns, mistakes and strong points in their game to find the right techniques to defeat them. I also studied my own fights to look at my mistakes and strong points; even my practice and sparring sessions were recorded so I could study what was working and what needed more practice. Reviewing my footage allowed me to have a fresh pair of eyes to see what I was doing. Each of my coaches would get video files sent to them so they could critique me. This also put all of my coaches on the same page.
K-Flo speaks with reporters after his UFC 131 open workout in 2011
You can’t truly understand what a fighter goes through unless you have have fought, and that is why I became very close with my training partners in Boston, Montreal and New York City. A bond forms when you sweat, bleed and suffer with others. As cliché as that sounds, I assure you it all happened frequently. A brotherhood forms and I miss everyone that helped me over the years. I truly felt lost after I retired. The training, the weight cutting, the aches were all OK when you had fellow fighters around. We all gave each other strength and pushed the other through plateaus when we needed it. I miss my coaches telling me what to do and I miss that painful routine that over the years gave me tremendous comfort.
Part II, "My Life As A TV Commentator", publishes next Monday.
Florian prepares for his bout against Sean Sherk backstage at UFC 64 in 2006
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