Kenny Co-hosts UFC Tonight on Tuesdays at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Fuel TV.
Kenny provides Color Commentary alongside Jon Anik for UFC on FX and UFC on Fuel Fight Nights.
Kenny is the only UFC fighter to compete in 4 Divisions (Featherweight, Lightweight, Welterweight and Middleweight). His story is one of constantly overcoming the odds by dedicating himself to training harder and smarter than his opponents.
Growing up, Kenny excelled in many sports including; tennis and martial arts. At one point, soccer became so important to him that he put his martial arts studies aside in order to practice and play soccer year round. This dedication helped Kenny become a star midfielder in high school and he was recruited for the Olympic Development program in Massachusetts. Later, he went on to play Division 1 soccer at Boston College. Here he was successful both on and off the soccer field; earning Big-East Academic All-Star status, and becoming a Dean’s list student.
After he graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, Kenny began taking his jiu-jitsu more seriously, inspired by the opportunity to truly determine his own destiny. He started training under Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Roberto Maia, at BJJ/Gracie Barra in Watertown, MA. Rapidly, Kenny’s skills improved and he was anxious to apply them.
In early 2002, Kenny decided he was ready for yet another challenge. He wanted to test his BJJ skills in the Mixed Martial Arts arena. In his very first fight, he took on one of the most experienced and dangerous fighters in the region, Nuri Shakir. Nuri was a well-rounded freestyle fighter known as a potent striker and an accomplished submission wrestler. Kenny earned a tapout win when he secured a dominant top mount position on the ground, finishing his opponent with strikes.
Realizing that other strikers and wrestlers were training in BJJ, Kenny knew that if he wanted to be the best at MMA, BJJ by itself would not be enough. Accordingly, he began training with wrestlers and coaches. In addition, he had the great opportunity to train with Greco-Roman expert, Darryl Gholar, who was not only a world class competitor and MMA champion, but a National Team coach at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Kenny also trained with former Cuban Wrestling National Team coach Alejo Morales. All of this wrestling training helped Kenny tremendously as he went on to earn two more victories. He won one by TKO over an accomplished wrestler and the other by arm submission over a pro boxer/freestyle fighter.
Kenny competed in every tournament available, even competing internationally and in open weight class tournaments. Kenny’s success in competition was rarely seen in such a short period of training time. Encouraged by these victories, Kenny traveled frequently to Brazil, where he trained at the world renowned Gracie Barra Academy in Rio de Janeiro.
By training with some of the greatest BJJ practitioners in the world, Kenny’s skills significantly improved as did his reputation as one of the best BJJ and submission wrestlers in the United States. Kenny’s technical level was always superb, having beaten BJJ black belts in competition since he was a purple belt. (In late 2003, Kenny Florian became part of a very elite and exclusive group of Americans when he was awarded a black belt in BJJ.)
During the summer of 2003, a life and death experience in Brazil had a profound impact on Kenny. Consequently, he left his comfortable job as a senior project manager of a financial translation firm to devote himself fulltime physically and mentally to MMA. He supported himself by teaching and conducting seminars throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, he produced two successful DVDs, Kenny Florian’s MMA No-Gi Seminar and Kenny Florian’s BJJ Seminar.
In June of 2004, Kenny decided to formally enter into striking training. Kenny ended up at the Sityodtong Muay-Thai Camp in Somerville, MA. Kru Mark DellaGrotte welcomed him and began showing him the effectiveness and beauty of Muay Thai.
Soon after his Muay Thai training started, Kenny was offered another MMA fight in Boston against an up-and-coming fighter from Arizona. However, nine days before the fight was to take place, on July 7, 2004, his opponent dropped out. Taking his place was Drew Fickett, who had one of the best records among MMA fighters in the U.S. and in the world. Drew had 22 wins and only 3 losses – even beating two UFC veterans.
With only 3 fights under his belt, not many people gave Kenny any chance. Fickett had demolished his last six opponents by submission – even submitting Brazilian Top Team black belt, Fabio Holanda via rear-naked choke. Never one to listen to the “experts,” Kenny ran right at Fickett and a war was set in motion.
It was three rounds of back and forth action – on their feet striking, wrestling and on the ground. Great kicks and punches were exchanged. Both earned takedowns and showed effectiveness on the ground. The first judge had Florian the winner; the second judge had chosen Fickett. Many in attendance thought Florian had won and others thought it was a draw. However, the third judge gave the controversial split decision win to Drew Fickett.
In the audience that night by chance was Ultimate Fighting President, Dana White. Ironically, he was scouting Fickett for a new reality show. However, Kenny’s toughness, technique and willingness to bring the fight to the opponent won Dana over. That night he asked Kenny to apply for his new show, where the best up and coming fighters would train and compete together and ultimately fight to earn a chance at a six figure contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Excited by the prospects, Kenny applied and was accepted to be on “The Ultimate Fighter”.
The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 was produced by the Ultimate Fighting Championship and was a 12 week reality series seen nationally on Spike TV. Sixteen fighters all of them versed in boxing, wrestling, and every martial art imaginable were placed into a house as they undertook even more rigorous training and periodic elimination bouts in the Octagon. By making it through all of the elimination rounds, Kenny became a finalist.
He fought Diego Sanchez live in front of 3 million plus viewers for a six figure contract. Although Sanchez was victorious, Kenny felt the experience helped him better understand how to deal with the intense spotlight he was now under as one of the UFC’s most popular fighters.
The lessons learned from the Sanchez fight helped Kenny decisively beat his next two opponents; Alex Karalexis and Kit Cope in nationally televised matches during the course of 2005.
On June 24th, 2006, fighting for the first time at his natural weight in the UFC’s new lightweight division, Kenny took just 1 minute and 46 seconds to defeat Canadian Muay Thai champion Sam Stout. The fight was the main event of the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter 3 and seen live by 3 million viewers on Spike TV.
Kenny fought Sean Sherk on October 14th, 2006 for the World Lightweight Championship at UFC 64. The fight was a war, going the distance (5 rounds, 5 minutes each). Knowing he was behind on the judge’s scorecard as he entered the last round, Kenny valiantly tried to submit Sherk, but the blood coming from Sherk’s forehead made it impossible to hold the grasp. Although the Sherk fight definitively established Kenny as one of the top lightweight MMA fighters in the world, he expected much more of himself. Immediately after the fight, he committed himself to improving all aspects of his training.
With a renewed determination to get another title shot, Kenny returned to the Octagon at Ultimate Fight 9, where he defeated Dokonjonosuke Mishima with a rear naked chock in round 3. In his next fight at UFC 73 Kenny defeated Alvin Robinson by forcing him to tap out due to strikes from the mount at 4:30 of Round 1. To cap off 2007, he defeated Din Thomas at Ultimate Fight Night 11 via rear naked choke.
His winning streak continued in 2008. In April he beat Joe Lauzon at Ultimate Fight Night 13 with an aggressive style that earned fight of the night status. At UFC 87 Kenny decisively showcased his boxing, wrestling and overall mma skills against Roger Huerta, earning a unanimous victory. He followed that up with a victory against Joe Stevenson at UFC 91.
With six straight victories (12-3), Kenny earned a lightweight title shot against BJ Penn, which took place on August 8th at UFC 101 in Philadelphia. He lost by submission in the fourth round. After the fight he made several key changes, including bringing in Firas Zahabi, who is Georges St-Pierre’s head trainer.
At UFC 107, Kenny showed measurable improvement in his striking and wrestling skills as he defeated Clay Guida in the 2nd round via a rear naked choke that was setup by a strong right hand punch that brought Guida to the ground. He followed this up with another impressive performance at Ultimate Fight Night 21 where he submitted Pride Champion Takanori Gomi in the 3rd round. His third attempt for a title shot was stopped by Gray Maynard at UFC 118 in Boston with a decision loss. Although over the last few years, Kenny had made dramatic improvements in his wrestling, Maynard’s wrestling experience and skills proved to be a critical advantage. To enhance his wrestling skills, Kenny hired a wresting coach, Sean Gray..
Kenny announced in early 2011 that he would be dropping to Featherweight. He fought Diego Nunes at UFC 131 on June 11 and won by unanimous decision, making him the top title contender in the Featherweight division. On October 8, he had the opportunity to face Featherweight title holder Jose Aldo in a championship fight at UFC 136.
Outside the Octagon
In addition to his fighting career, Kenny has been pursuing television work. He has appeared on two episodes of Discovery Channel’s “Time Warp.” He has done the color commentary for UFC 83, the Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale, WEC 41 & WEC 49. Kenny also did the color commentary for the first 3-D broadcast of an UFC event at Versus Fight Night 3 on March 3, 2011.
Kenny is co-host of MMA Live, a weekly show that covers the world of Mixed Martial Arts. MMA Live is broadcast on ESPN 2 and available at ESPN.com on demand. He also serves an MMA Analyst for ESPN broadcast channels.
Kenny along with his brother Keith, own and operate Florian Martial Arts Center in Brookline, MA.