Kenny Florian (14-6, MMA 12-5, UFC) retired from MMA today leaving behind a career where he was a three-time title challenger, fought in four weight classes and was one of the members of The Ultimate Fighter’s inaugural season. Though he never won a title, Florian will always be highly regarded as one of the most elite fighters to ever compete.
Now an MMA analyst for Fuel TV and the owner of Florian Martial Arts Center in Boston, Massachusetts, Florian said his overall experience was entirely worth it.
“I’m very thankful that I had a good long career. That I was able to accomplish a lot of great things in this sport. Originally I got into this and I had no idea that I was going to be a mixed martial arts fighter. I wanted to be really just a martial artist and it turned into a mixed martial artist career with the best organization in the world. And I’m just very thankful for that and all the opportunites that have come from it.”
Rumors of his nagging back injury began following his loss to Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Championship in October of 2011. It’s been nearly eight months since that fight and Florian was advised by his doctor after re-injuring his back a couple of weeks ago to strongly consider walking away from the sport.
Florian admitted that the decision to retire wasn’t easy by any means, but that he knew it was the right time to leave. “It took several months of really coming to grips with it. It’s been difficult. Luckily, I still have a lot of other opportunities. I’m glad that I’m still relatively healthy and can pursue other things.”
His road to fighting in the UFC started back in Boston when Florian was fighting Drew Fickett in the CZ 7 – Gravel Pit. Though he lost by split decision to Fickett, UFC President Dana White was there scouting Fickett and ended up approaching Florian after his fight to ask him to tryout for The Ultimate Fighter. At the time, Florian said he scoffed at the idea, but later sent in a DVD of his fights to White.
Florian ended up making the roster for the show and started his UFC career as a competitor in the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. In what may have been the best season of The Ultimate Fighter, featuring names like Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Diego Sanchez and more. Florian said being on the show was what motivated him to become a mixed martial artist.
“It was awesome. Back then I kind of went into it with open eyes, just saw it as a fun experience. It really wasn’t until after that experience that I said alright I really want to be a professional mixed martial artist fighter,” said Florian.
His career with the UFC ended up lasting nearly seven years. His first official UFC fight was to Diego Sanchez to become the middleweight Ultimate Fighter winner. Florian lost to Sanchez via a first round TKO. Following that loss, he dropped to welterweight defeating Alex Karalexis at UFC Fight Night 1. Soon after, Florian dropped down to lightweight and challenged Sean Sherk for the vacant lightweight title at UFC 64. He lost to Sherk via unanimous decision. The second time he fought for the lightweight title, he challenged BJ Penn at UFC 101. Penn finished Florian via rear naked choke in the 4th round. Before dropping featherweight, Florian lost a lightweight title eliminator to Gray Maynard. Florian won his first fight at featherweight to Diego Nunes, but lost to Jose Aldo for the featherweight title.
With an extensive resume of MMA fighting now behind him, Florian said he plans to open up a gym in Los Angeles, CA. “I live out there now. I definitely want to spread my knowledge and my experience in mixed martial arts and teach just regular folk MMA, and hopefully start and be able to mentor other professional mixed martial arts fighters, and hopefully get them all the way to the top.”
With a great career in the UFC, Florian was asked about his chances of getting into the UFC Hall of Fame. He said, “I really don’t think about that. Again, looking back on my career I wish I could have been a belt holder and all those things. Again, it sounds cliche but to have the opportunity to fight at the highest level was really what I wanted all along. “