Though he has no timetable on when he might be back, Kenny Florian is thankful for one thing this holiday season – he won’t have to make the cut to featherweight again.
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Just six weeks removed from his UFC featherweight title fight loss to champion Jose Aldo, Florian knows when he returns it will be back at lightweight, where he has spent the bulk of his career.
Florian is the only fighter in history to compete in four different weight classes in the UFC. He fought at middleweight on the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter." After losing to Diego Sanchez in the finals, he won two fights at welterweight before dropping to lightweight. At 155 pounds, he twice challenged for titles, and twice came up short.
But after two fights at 145 pounds – a win over Diego Nunes and his title shot with Aldo – Florian (14-6, 12-5 UFC) will gladly go back to lightweight.
"It’s definitely a welcome change," Florian told Heavy.com last week. "The hardest thing I’ve ever done, probably, is get down to 145. It was really brutal, and it took its toll on my body."
Florian said that toll was there against Nunes, but it was near debilitating when the title was on the line against Aldo at UFC 136 in Houston.
"It definitely had an effect on my body, and I felt it a little bit in the Nunes fight," Florian said. "But I felt it a tremendous amount in the Aldo fight. I just felt it took away my strength and my energy, and that’s not a good feeling to have going into a fight."
Still, the opportunity to make a run at featherweight is something Florian said he’ll try to turn into a silver lining as he heads into the twilight of his career.
"Despite it affecting my health a little bit, I would do it again," Florian said. "I didn’t regret it. It was a great experience, and that’s exactly why I did it.
"Everything you do has consequences, and you have to be ready for those things. I was very thankful for the experience. I see it as a learning experience. I always try to take a positive from it."
When Florian does return, he’ll likely be thrown right into the deep end of what is arguably the UFC’s deepest division. After champion Frankie Edgar and top contender Ben Henderson, there is a big pack of recent near-top contenders and streaking fighters about to be next for a shot – Gray Maynard, Clay Guida, Donald Cerrone, Jim Miller, Melvin Guillard, Joe Lauzon, Nate Diaz.
Florian said he believes the UFC lightweight class is the best in the company, but it will continue to improve.
"Everyone’s getting good, everyone’s getting better, everyone’s learning," Florian said. "I think once you start to know the fighters in the upper levels, you start to kind of figure out their game and then everyone realizes that everyone’s training hard, everyone’s hungry and it’s a very deep division – it has been for a long time.
"It’s going to be interesting getting back in there – there’s a lot of tough guys there. Right now, the 155-pound division is probably the deepest."
Just when he returns remains to be seen. Florian said he would prefer to take his time building his strength back up to fight at lightweight again, which could make it late spring or early summer before his return.
"I’m not sure – it all depends on how my body feels," Florian said. "I’m just taking it one day at a time and seeing how it goes."