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Despite title-shot snub, Kenny Florian "thankful

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UFC President Dana White giveth, and then he taketh away.

Such is the lesson learned by UFC lightweight Kenny Florian (10-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC), who was all but promised a second shot at the lightweight title in the months building up to his UFC 87 bout with Roger Huerta -- only to have the opportunity taken away.

But as Florian recently told us the chance to improve his game is just as important as another chance at the belt.

"I really just feel that all the experience with a lot of the fights has really benefited me more than anything else," Florian said. "It's just going to get me that much more prepared when I do fight for the championship."

In May, White told members of the media on a pre-UFC 84 conference call that there was a better-than-average chance that the winner of Florian and Huerta would be next in line to challenge for the title.

"The fight between Roger Huerta and Kenny Florian, I think the winner of that fight will fight the winner of [Penn vs. Sherk]," White said.

But in the week preceding that bout, White told TAGG Radio that a fight between welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and lightweight title-holder B.J. Penn may trump Florian's bid.

"There's no guarantees that Florian and Huerta are going to get a title shot after this fight," White said. "It definitely puts them in the mix ... but definitely, if St. Pierre beats Fitch, it's looking like it'll be GSP (vs.) B.J. Penn."

St. Pierre held up his end of the bargain, and Florian now finds himself matched up with fellow contender Joe Stevenson at "UFC 91: Couture vs. Lesnar." Despite the reversal in fortunes, Florian is comfortable with his current situation.

"The opportunity to fight great fighters -- tough fighters -- one after another is going to benefit me a lot when it does come down for the second shot at a title," Florian said. "I fought Sean Sherk (in my first bid for the lightweight title) after just a few UFC fights. I'm a completely different fighter, and it's going to be a completely different experience a second time around.

"And I'm thankful for these fights. I'm ready. I think some people have said, 'Why wouldn't he just wait? There's a lot at stake fighting Joe Stevenson right now.' But for me, every fight is a risk. And for me, it's just another opportunity for me to prove myself as a No. 1 contender."

A win at UFC 91 would be Florian's sixth in a row -- and ninth in his previous 10 bouts.

Compared with fellow UFC 91 competitor Brock Lesnar -- who will be gunning for the UFC heavyweight belt despite a mere 1-1 record in the organization -- Florian would seem to be far more qualified for a shot at the belt. While "KenFlo" is not thrilled at the UFC's decision to award Lesnar a chance at gold, he is understanding of the logic behind the decision.

"I'm not crazy about that idea (of Lesnar fighting for a belt)," Florian said. "I think that it's a real marketable fight, no doubt about it. There's a lot of benefits for the UFC in that regard. I think it's going to be a huge seller. It could be the biggest UFC pay-per-view ever. So for that, I'm thankful because I'm on the same card. I'll be fighting right before them.

"But I'm not crazy about the idea if a guy just coming to the UFC and getting a title shot right away. I know he lost his first fight against Frank Mir. And while he was doing great up until that point -- it was a quick fight, but he was doing great up until the point he got submitted -- I think it's just a little too soon."

Florian believes the precedent set by the decision could prove to be a mistake.

"It kind of sends a message that almost anyone can go in and in a couple of fights get a title shot," Florian said. "I don't know if it's the right message we want to send for the sport."

Despite his belief that Lesnar is being awarded the title opportunity a bit too soon, Florian does acknowledge the strengths that Lesnar brings to the table.

"There's no doubt about it, Brock Lesnar is the real deal," Florian said. "He is a real, mixed martial artist.

"People see him as a WWE guy. They don't realize that he's an all-American wrestler and that he's probably (been) training non-stop for the last few years with jiu-jitsu coaches, wrestling coaches, boxing coaches, kickboxing coaches. I think people just see him as some big dude from the WWE coming in and getting a title shot. That's kind of unfortunate."

Rather than focusing on what he no longer has, Florian will instead set his sights on the challenge that lies before him in Stevenson.

"I just want to beat [Stevenson] at everything," Florian said. "Whatever range, whatever situation we find ourselves in, I want to be the guy with the upper hand and doing the damage. That's what I plan on doing. I just want -- from start to finish -- beat him down at everything."

Florian also talked about the opening of his new gym, his plan for facing Stevenson and if he would be interested in retuning to "The Ultimate Fighter" as a coach
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5/28/2016 4:06:23 AM UTC