[ccfic caption-text format="plaintext"]
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
We here in Massachusetts are spoiled. The winning traditions throughout the last several decades by the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, and Red Sox have molded sports fans in this neck of the woods to become confident and to expect athletic success. However, if there is one example of a local person who was forced to build his own confidence and achieve personal success in athletics by overcoming odds and not having success be handed to him at birth, its Dover’s own Kenny Florian.
Now a television personality and UFC analyst for FOX, the Peruvian-American Southpaw spent 10 years in the UFC from 2003-2012 in four separate divisions (featherweight, lightweight, middleweight, welterweight). While Florian was never able to win a title belt, his success can be seen through his long MMA career that saw a 14-6 record and fights against big names such as BJ Penn, Sean Sherk, Joe Stevenson, and Jose Aldo.
Florian, a member of the Dover-Sherborn High School class of 1994, grew up playing soccer at a young age, and was part of the 1992 State Championship-winning varsity soccer team at DS. Normally, a childhood that involves kicking around a soccer ball does not result in a life of being a total monster inside the cage, but Florian says that he learned many valuable life lessons while playing for DS that allowed him to go on and achieve immensely in both mixed martial arts and as a television personality.
“I was lucky that I got into soccer at a young age,” said Florian. “Dover was and still is a big soccer town, and growing up, it was always one of my goals to make it to varsity. DS has a winning tradition and it starts with [former DS head soccer coach] Ralph Powers building such a tremendous program with a rich tradition. Growing up playing soccer taught me to always push things further in order to achieve that next goal. Just to make varsity was an incredible achievement and to be apart of that state championship team in 1992 was absolutely incredible. When everybody works hard to achieve a common goal, it motivates you to push yourself and see what more you can accomplish.”
Upon graduation from DS, Florian attended Boston College, where he played for the Eagle men’s soccer team. Following his graduation from BC in 1998, Florian turned his attention to MMA and received a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After more than five years of training, Florian made his MMA debut in 2003 at Mass Destruction 10, defeating Jason Giroux by TKO. Three months later, Florian then won his second MMA fight at Mass Destruction 15 by defeating Bobby McAndrews by submission. Florian’s wins in his first two MMA fights earned him a spot on the inaugural season of SpikeTV’s reality series, The Ultimate Fighter. Following a victory over Chris Leben via submission, Florian fought his way to the Ultimate Fighter season one finale, where he lost to Diego Nunez via strikes.
Throughout his time in the UFC, Florian’s claim to fame was his ability to land devastating elbow strikes, which UFC analyst Joe Rogan repeatedly labeled as “razor sharp.” Florian says that his two favorite fighters during his upbringing were Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Bruce Lee, and that watching the two of them throughout his childhood really helped develop his passion for competing in mixed martial arts.
“Hagler was definitely by favorite fighter while growing up,” said Florian. “I remember crying when he lost to Sugar Ray Leonard. Even though he wasn’t as much of a fighter as he was an actor, I also always admired Bruce Lee too. Guy was the ultimate warrior.”
Now, having been retired from MMA since 2012, the 40-year old Florian not only works as a television analyst and personality for FOX, but he also owns a gym in Brookline called Florian Mixed Martial Arts Center, dedicated to teaching people mixed martial arts. Florian says that his gym allows anybody the chance to learn the trade of mixed martial arts in a family environment, and he believes that MMA teaches a person how to cope with the hardships of life.
“My brothers and I opened Florian Mixed Martial Arts Center back in 2007 with the focus of giving back to our local roots in Boston after all the MMA community has done for us,” said Florian. “We wanted to share our love of the sport with others. You don’t have to be a pro to join, because it’s for the regular person who wants to come in and learn about themselves and what they are capable of. MMA allows a person to learn what they are made of. If you can deal with somebody trying to take you down or choke you out, you can deal with a lot more in life. Dealing with stress and hardship allows a person to find a better purpose in life. We believe in running a family environment, and it gives people the belief that no matter what they have going on in life, they always have their MMA family to lean on.”
One of the hottest topics around the UFC and Professional Boxing world over the last several months has been the rumors of a possible fight between reigning lightweight champion and UFC icon Conor McGregor, and undefeated five-division world champ and currently retired Floyd Mayweather. Florian says that he is excited to see the pieces beginning to fall into place and that he is hopeful that we’ll be seeing McGregor and Mayweather go at it soon.
“The wheels have finally started rolling recently between these two,” said Florian referring to talks between the two sides heating up the last several weeks. “You have to respect both of them, because every time they talk and are outspoken about what they are going to do in a fight, they go out and back it up. Conor is the face of UFC right now and it’d be awesome to see him go out of his normal routine and fight a guy with a different skill set like Floyd. Conor is a great striker but I don’t know if he possesses the speed to take down Mayweather. This would be an incredible moment for mixed martial arts if these two can find a way to get a deal done and get in the ring.