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“UFC Fight Night 21″ spotlight: a chat with Kenny Florian and Takanori Gomi

Kenny Florian and Takanori Gomi joined the media for a conference call on Monday to discuss their upcoming main event fight at “UFC Fight Night 21″, which takes place at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C. on March 31. The following questions and answers are taken directly from the transcript of that call.

If you would like to hear the audio of this call, we posted that yesterday here: UFC Fight Night 21 conference call.

All right, thanks. This first question is for Takanori Gomi. I read a couple of months ago that after your last fight, you had made plans to move to the US. Have you, in fact, made that happened and if so where are you staying now?

Translator: OK, Mr. Gomi said that he will come to the U.S. on the March 26th, but still – he is still in Japan.

OK and you feel that there’s a difference between the MMA atmosphere in Japan than there is in the U.S.?

Translator: Yes, Mr. Gomi say that there – because this is first time he going to play in the Octagon and play under new law, so he’s little bit concerned about new stuff, but he’s fine.

Next question is for Kenny. Kenny, where do you see yourself having the advantage against Gomi and how do you plan on capitalizing on that?

Kenny Florian: You know, I’m not really sure. I train very hard so that I have the advantage in all aspects. I guess my opponent does, (inaudible) think there’s only one way to find out and that’s to fight, so I’m looking forward to finding that out. I think Takanori Gomi is a very dangerous fighter. I guess, if just overall, I think I’m a bit more refined in all areas.

OK and one more for Kenny. How much weight do you feel this fight carries when determining the next contenders for BJ Penn’s title?

Kenny Florian: I’m not really sure, you know, I am – right now I’m just kind of concerned with just winning and that’s going to be the most important thing, you know. I don’t make any of those decisions of who gets the next spot at far as, next shot at the belt or anything like that. That’s not even on my mind. I think any time you look too far ahead, you know, you can get yourself into some trouble, so I’ll just try to really stay focused on what I need to do, you know, strategy wise and tactically to beat Takanori Gomi.

Hey, question for Gomi. I’m just wondering if he could sort of talk a little bit about why he decided to come to the UFC and how he feels the cage is going to be – how he feels it’s going to be getting inside the cage?

Translator: Mr. Gomi said that the – because he’s fought more than 30 games and he’s still looking for a challenge in his career; that’s the main reason to move on to the U.S. UFC.

Is this the final challenge in his career? Does he see himself, you know, this is sort of a make or break kind of situation for his career?

Translator: Gomi said that they’re–this is in their–on the way of that his career still, but he’s–is challenged to be a champion in the UFC.

OK, and one final question. How does he feel about the UFC coming to Japan and is–does he want to fight in Japan if that’s possible, if the UFC ends up doing a show in Japan?

Translator: Mr. Gomi said that they – Japanese fan will be excited if UFC coming to Japan, and he’s welcome to fight over there as well.

And my first question is for Takanori Gomi. I want to ask him about the rule change of fighting in the United States, and what’s–what rules do he think will be the most difficult for him to adjust to?

Translator: Yes. Mr. Gomi said that there is no elbow fighting in Japan, so that’s his most concern fighting in the United States.

And I also want to ask him if he’s familiar with Kenny Florian’s style, and if so, how would he describe Kenny Florian’s style of fighting?

Translator: Mr. Gomi said that Kenny’s kick and punch is so strong and his defense is outstanding, so he is studying his style right now.

OK. My final question is for Kenny. Gomi is known for his good, his good striking; his good punching. Is that something you prepared to, you’ve been preparing to deal with?

Kenny Florian: Definitely, you know, Gomi is very, very fast. He has you know, knock out power on both of his hands and you know, I think you always have to prepare for the worst case scenario and that’s something I’ve been doing and been able to train with some very experienced and dangerous strikers in my sparring and I feel – I’ll be prepared for that if that’s where the fight goes and I know obviously the fight starts standing, so I’m prepared to go all 15 minutes standing if I need to; I think it will be a great fight, fight.

Yes, this is for Kenny. Kenny, I wonder if this is a fight that you have been interested in for a while or if you thought it would happen. And two, given your interest in Japan, the culture the fact you speak the language, is it a particular interest that you’re fighting Gomi?

Kenny Florian: Well, actually I don’t speak the language. I was trying to learn, I’m still trying to learn; it’s something that interests me. But absolutely, with Takinori Gomi; I mean he’s been one the best fighters in the lightweight division for many years. I’m a big fan of PRIDE and I mean, Gomi has been at the top of food chain for a long time so, you know, I’ve watched him fight for a long time and I think it’s – as fighters we all want to fight the best and you know, but I never thought it would happen, I never thought that Gomi would, would come over to the UFC and I think it shows how you know, how he’s looking for a big challenge in his career right now and that’s exciting, you know. And it shows the commitment of the UFC to constantly look for the best fighters in the world.

So it’s, I think it’s a huge treat for the hardcore fans who’ve been following this sport for awhile. It’s always surprising to have newer fans who ask me, you know, who I’m fighting, and I say, Takanori Gomi, who is that? And I’m like, you haven’t been following this sport, obviously, you know this guy is one of the best so, aha, I’m very excited that that the fight is here and I’m just looking forward to it, I’m just really, really excited to get a chance to test my skills against a guy like him.

So, you speak a bit of Japanese, I guess, you have a few languages to…

Kenny Florian: Yes, I do speak some other languages, mostly the Romance languages but not much Japanese at this point, but it’s something I would love to be able to learn fluently at some point.

Yes, hi. I have a couple of questions for Gomi. The – there’s been a couple of things that your countryman Shinya Aoki recently said, he said he believes Japan is the number one country in MMA, and I’m wondering how you would rate the level of MMA talent in Japan these days.

Translator: OK, Mr. Gomi said that the environment, fighting environment is different from Japan and U.S. that’s why one of the reasons he is fighting in the United States under UFC. But he still believe in that that Japan, the mixed martial arts trend, it’s still going and younger professions that, you know, making effort to become stronger.

And I had one other question again about something that (Aoki) said, he said he felt that UFC would not succeed in Japan and I’m wondering why – why Gomi thinks the UFC has had such a hard time being successful in that market.

Mr. Gomi don’t know why, but there are some UFC broadcast on TV in Japan because they have so many UFC fans, Japanese fans, and in the past there was this one game UFC coming to Japan. So, he don’t know the specific answer why.

OK. I believe this is your third time headlining at UFC Fight Night and you’ve won both previous meetings. Do you feel any differently when you’re preparing for a main event and do you thrive on the spotlight?

Kenny Florian: You know, for me I just see it as just another fight. You know, I think there’s maybe more than three, but I’m not exactly sure. It’s always awesome to be fighting (inaudible), you get such a great audience and such a large audience. And you know, it’s just another fight for me. Obviously it’s a big fight but every fight is a big fight. So, just excited to go out there and compete, really.

OK and – and as a lightweight, you’ve only lost twice, is that correct?

Kenny Florian: Yes.

That’s correct. But they were both title fights and one was one in which you went beyond the third round. I’m just wondering, is there anything to that or do you simply tribute those loses to like facing really tough – tough guys, BJ and Sean?

Kenny Florian: You know it’s just at the point of my career; I feel that they were just the better guys. It certainly with the case with Sean Sherk, it was very early on my career. I may have had seven fights total… The second fight at lightweight and I think it was probably his maybe 45th fight. So, tremendous difference in experience and you know, and maybe that was the same thing with BJ. I think that, BJ is a great fighter and you better be on your game.

And you know, while I definitely think I should’ve prepared much better smarter; should’ve performed much better; I still feel that, you know, BJ Penn was just the better fighter that night. And you know now, I feel like I’m heading in the right path. So, I think I’m gaining those skills needed to face the elite of the elite and you know, well see what the future holds for me.

OK. On lastly, apart from fighting, you’ve done some commentary for the UFC and WEC. I don’t know if there’s an opening at the WEC, but if there were, would you like that full-time?

Kenny Florian: Yes, you know, I love to do it. I love the sport and if time allows, I would definitely be open to doing that.

Yes for Mr. Gomi, I just wondered simply, what do you like best about America?

Translator: Mr. Gomi said that, he likes about professional sports or the athletes’ status. However, very look forward to or look up to those professional athletes in the United States.

Yes, Kenny I’m just posing the same question. What do you like best about America? Just to compare with what Mr. Gomi said.

Kenny Florian: I guess it’s the fact that wherever you come from, whoever you are, you always have an opportunity to become successful in whatever you choose to do and I don’t think that’s the case in every single country out there in the world. I think the United States provides an opportunity for anyone, for whoever you are, for whatever background, to become successful.

Tell us which one of Gomi’s fights was your most favorite and why?

Kenny Florian: He’s had a lot of great fights. It’s tough to say I guess – you know, obviously he is most probably well known for his battle against Nick Diaz because it was here in the United States. But, I mean, there’s a lot of impressive fights. I know his fight against Jens Pulver was impressive. Against (inaudible), you know, and in all his fights against the shoot box team. Those are probably my favorites, the one against the shoot box because they really were dead set on going out and defeating Gomi but they couldn’t, whoever they sent, rematch or whatever it was, Gomi was still able to beat them. And so, it was impressive, you know.

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