"It was crazy; it really was. It was a very ambitious schedule last year and it will be even more ambitious this year. But they pulled it off and they pulled it off with flying colors. I think it was a great year to get more exposure for the UFC, and being on FOX I think was huge. We had some fantastic fights; myself and Jon Anik really got lucky in the fights that we were able to call. We had some unbelievable ones, and having the girls be a part of the UFC, they really won me overÂ…this year, it's going to be fun," stated former UFC fighter-turned-commentator Kenny Florian, who looked back on some of the biggest moments of 2013 for the UFC and discussed the future plans of the company. Check it out!
PC: How has it been going my man; long time no speak?
KF: Everything has been good, man.
PC: Have you adjusted to the retired life as far as being away from competition or is it still a process for you?
KF: It's still a process I think. I'm pretty used to it by now, but I definitely miss the training aspect and getting ready for fights all of the time, but at least I get to be a part of it, so that's pretty cool.
PC: Recently the UFC added the lower weight classes for men. In addition to that, they also included women fighting inside of the Octagon. What is your take on both moves and the shows those moves create?
KF: It was crazy; it really was. It was a very ambitious schedule last year and it will be even more ambitious this year. But they pulled it off and they pulled it off with flying colors. I think it was a great year to get more exposure for the UFC, and being on FOX I think was huge. We had some fantastic fights; myself and Jon Anik really got lucky in the fights that we were able to call. We had some unbelievable ones, and having the girls be a part of the UFC, they really won me over. I gotta admit, in the beginning, I really wasn't so excited about it, but all of their fights have been nothing but exciting. Ronda Rousey established herself as not only a legitimate star, but as a really good fighter; a top fighter. She is a girl who is an athlete who is deserving of all of the accolades and attention.
PC: She seems to be growing as a fighter. Do you feel like she can win a fight in any other manner besides armbar? And I'm not asking that because I think it's a problem; if it's not broke don't fix it. I just wonder if you are seeing that type of growth where you feel we are gonna see some other types of wins from her.
KF: Yeah, I think so. What I saw in Ronda, and I haven't had a chance to see her train, but she was really sitting down on her punches really well and she was firing that right hand. She hits hard and she was putting together some nice combinations against Miesha Tate in the rematch. I think after every fight, she's gonna look at it and critique herself and look for other ways where she can improve, and that goes for any fighter out there. There is always ways to improve and evolve and I think she will, whether it's adding a choking arsenal to her game or maybe adding some kicks or knockout strikes, I think all of those things are gonna come with time. She still is relatively new and that has always been her go-to move, and man, she keeps using it, but I think she will evolve and find some other techniques to get wins.
PC: I remember interviewing Jon Jones after his first fight in the UFC and guys like you and Rashad Evans fresh off of TUF. What young fighter are you paying close attention to and that fans should do the same?
KF: For sure Conor McGregor and Zach Makovsky. I think those are two guys for me. Zach Makovsky had one of the best UFC debuts. He took a fight on short notice, fought at 125 against a true veteran of the game in Scott Jorgensen, and went in there and got the win. It was a fight. There were some great exchanges on the feet and some nasty exchanges on the ground and he came out on top. I thought it showed us a lot about his heart, his technique, his resiliency, and his ability to stay calm. In his first fight, I thought that was awesome. And Conor McGregor is a dude who came in just knocking guys out, man. He did exactly what he said he wanted to do and that's go out there and be exciting and he has been exciting. He didn't have an easy debut either. He's fought some tough guys and I see both of those guys are fighters to watch for this year in 2014.
PC: You were one of the guys that always told me that with guys working on so many things, you would always see evolution and great fights. It seems that one discipline is always standing out from the other. At one point, it was Jits, then wrestling, and now we're seeing a lot of basically kickboxing matches. Which discipline would you say is holding an edge right now?
KF: You really hit it on the head because there is always these trends that we see out there. You know man, I'm not sure what the next real trend is as far as what's gonna stand out. I think everything is important as far as wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, and the striking game. I think it really comes down to how they are incorporating everything. I think what fighters are gonna find out is how much to train and really being smart about their training. They are still figuring that out. MMA is still a new sport. In boxing, they pretty much got it figured out because they have been around for awhile. They figure out how to train, how much to train, and how to be efficient for the most part. In MMA, we still have to learn that aspect and because there are so many different aspects to the game, some guys are overdoing it and we are seeing these guys get injured here left and right. I think the next important thing in mixed martial arts is being smart when they are training, and that comes with being tutored the right way too, having good coaches looking over you, and making sure you're doing the right thing and not doing too much, but still training hard, but not overdoing it. I think the injuries was really a big story in 2013 and I think, with smarter training, we could eliminate some of that.
PC: And speaking of injuries, the biggest from last year of course is Anderson Silva's leg break in his rematch against Chris Weidman. As someone involved in the sport, what was that like to witness that and do you think he comes back from that?
KF: It was awful, man. I don't like to see anybody suffer those kinds of injuries and when I saw Anderson Silva, a guy who really helped put MMA on the map and someone who is one of the greatest to ever put gloves on and walk inside of a cage...it was awful. It was terrible to see. It hurt me, man. I think he will be okay. I think that he will be able to recover and come back and be healthy if he chooses to come back. Now, I don't think he needs to. I think this is a guy who has done everything. He has nothing left to prove and he's getting close to 40 and by the time he comes back, he will be very close to 40 years old and there is no need for him to come back. I don't think there is a need. I don't think there is anything left for him to do in this sport. This guy is a legend and is the greatest of all time and for me, financially, I hope he is all set and he can live his life in Brazil or the US and live a nice comfortable life, man, because he deserves it and I wouldn't want to see him get injured or tarnish his impeccable legacy.
PC: When you think about the fact that the UFC just lost Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre for an undisclosed amount of time, do you see 2013 as a changing of the guard with guys like Johny Hendricks giving GSP a great fight in which many thought he won, Travis Browne beating guys like Overeem, and Weidman of course with two wins over Silva?
KF: You know it could very well be, and in a way, it really was, man. I think that's kind of the harsh reality of combat all the way through. There is always someone looking to take your place and when you've been at it long enough in fighting, it take it's toll on you mentally and physically. And there is only so long you can keep it up. And it's a very good lesson for all fighters out there. Mike Tyson said it best, "Tough guys are great, but they don't last long in this sport. It's the smart guys that last the longest," and when you look at the greats like Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre, they really fought smart. And to hold the belt for that long and do what they did at that level is unbelievable. And it goes to show you that you have to be so well-rounded and deep in your arsenal of skills and you have to fight smart and train smart, and those are the guys who are gonna stick around for a long time. But at the same time, there is always these young guys coming up looking to take their place and it's been crazy. To have that happen to Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre in one month is crazy.
PC: You have had the privilege to be cage-side for some great fights last year. Which fights stick out in your mind as the "Fight of the Year?"
KF: Man, Jones and Gustafsson to me is the Fight of the Year. It was the Fight of the Year for me because of the high level of technique that those two showed, the heart that they showed, and the swings of momentum in that fight was just insane. The heart that Jon Jones showed in that fight, I mean, for me, he was down 2 rounds to 0. And I thought he squeaked out the 3rd round and he came back hard in the 4th and the 5th. For someone watching that fight that is maybe in the 205-pound division and you thought maybe Jon Jones was just this real technical guy that you can't really touch him, but if you ever pushed his heart or tested him that he would fold, well that is not the case with Jon Jones. That is a scary dude and he showed how much heart he really has. He is gonna be a tough guy to beat and I don't see anyone beating that guy for a long time. Gustafsson was close though and I'm looking forward to that rematch. And of course the Mark Hunt and "Big Foot" Silva fight, man. I was just trying to keep myself together. I was yelling so loud at that fight that I had a headache after that fight. Those are the two that really stick out in my mind. But there were so many good ones. We had an awesome year last year.
PC: And what fight that is already made are you looking forward to for this year or one that you would like to see made?
KF: As far as fights that can be made in 2014, I would really like to see Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis go at it. That's one that I would really look forward to. It almost happened last year and it's just been some injuries back and forth, but I hope Aldo and Pettis get out together for this year at some point.
PC: Well, it was great talking to you again. It's been way too long in between talks. I look forward to a great year in mixed martial arts and I enjoy your commentating. Is there anything else you wanna add?
KF: It's always good talking to you. It's been too long and yeah man, this year, it's going to be fun. Thanks always, Percy!
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrFighthype ]