Cameron Conaway interviews one of his personal inspirations, retired UFC fighter Kenny Florian.
I’ve been a fan of Kenny Florian since January 2006. He was on Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter reality show – a show that continues to this day and is widely considered the way that the sport of mixed martial arts truly emerged into the public sphere. Kenny’s normalcy is what struck me the most. Among all the “characters” of the show, Kenny appeared like a regular guy. He wasn’t a “fighter” as much as he was a martial artist. It was clear that his words and general demeanor were shaped not only by the lessons learned through physical training, but of deep thought and meditation. This was all speculation, of course.
As the years passed, Kenny continued to improve and work his way through the UFC. He didn’t have the innate athleticism of other lightweights like BJ Penn. But, as I was told by an elite trainer when I attended an annual conference for the National Strength and Conditioning Association, “Kenny’s a regular dude who busts his ass. I’ve worked with thousands of high-level athletes and nobody, I mean nobody, has worked harder or smarter to reach their full athletic potential.”
So I continued to follow Kenny’s career, continued to cheer for him, continued to watch as every element of his game became sharper and sharper each time he entered the octagon. Though he fought for the title, he never became UFC champion. But unlike other UFC fighters who retired before him, Kenny transitioned brilliantly into his second career – that of an MMA TV personality and fight commentator. His cerebral approach to mixed martial arts was immediately evident when he took the mic – few, if any, provide such detailed and articulate fight analysis. He knew well the short span of a fighter’s career, and his Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Boston College helped pave the way for a career with a far longer shelf-life.
Kenny was cool enough to answer a few questions for us here at The Good Men Project. Let’s dive in:
When have you felt satisfied with yourself?
Hmm, I’m a perfectionist so I’m not sure I’ve ever been satisfied with myself career wise but I’m extremely happy and satisfied that I chose the career that I did. Doubt and fear of change almost got the better of me until I made the decision to dedicate my life to the martial arts. There is no value that I can put on the lessons that I’ve learned through my training and fight career. I would spend three lifetimes studying the martial arts if I could.
What would the 13-year-old Kenny Florian say to today’s Kenny Florian?
Please tell me I’m gonna make it out of this awkward stage. I’m glad I found what I was looking for and since I’m gonna become a fighter then I better start training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA now instead of at age 28. Should I definitely invest in Google? When do I stop thinking about girls?
When did you last cry?
I saw a documentary called An Elephant in The Living Room a couple weeks ago and cried watching that.
Who was/is the most influential man in your life?
It is hard to point to any one man. My father is certainly a big influence. I’ve had many martial arts instructors that have influenced me a great deal. But in the late 1990’s early 2000’s I started reading Jiddu Krishnamurti‘s books. It really made a very deep connection with me and my beliefs. It was world shattering for me in many ways. It was almost too much for me to take in because all of these structures and buildings of thought that I built around myself had come crumbling down. I felt alone in the middle of this rubble. It reset my brain and I had to rebuild everything back up on my own experiences. It allowed me to uncover a new type of reality. I saw myself and the world in a completely different manner. I started questioning everything I believed in and saw my own ignorance and the false intelligence of society. His teachings influenced me to pursue MMA as a career and it still influences me to this day.
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–Photo: Ryan Loco