Joe Stevenson and Kenny Florian's UFC 91 lightweight bout has a heavyweight load of implications in the Ultimate Fighting Championship's 155-pound division. Florian appeared to be the No. 1 contender after defeating RogerHuerta at UFC 87, but accepted a fight with top-10 ranked JoeStevenson rather than wait for an opportunity against UFC lightweight titleholder B.J. Penn. Stevenson spoke with MMAWeekly.com about the match-up, his training and the role of underdog giving him extra motivation.
"This is definitely the fight I was looking for," said Stevenson. "It's an awesome fight to have at this point in time. I'm actually really excited about it. I start reading the Internet and you read things about, like, I'm looked at as an underdog on websites. It's so upsetting. I just can't stand it. I'm literally upset about it. And I never get upset, so I've been taking this seriously."
Being considered the underdog against a fighter he's ranked higher than on the MMAWeekly World MMA Rankings has gotten under Stevenson's skin and inspired him throughout training. "It has motivated me. It has pushed me to go the extra mile, so it's been working really well for me," said the 26-year-old fighter. "I guess I'm lucky it was on there otherwise I might of almost laxed a little bit on it."
"This fight's not a cake walk in any avenue. On the ground, it's not like I'm going to have my way with him. On my feet it's not like I'm going to have my way with him. Takedowns, it's not going to be like him collapsing. He's also a guy that's very determined and has a great heart. He's young and hungry. So, you can't take anything away from Kenny."
Florian is a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt and Stevenson is known for his submission skills, grappling and devastating ground and pound. Both have shown vast improvements in their striking ability, especially Florian, in their recent outings. Asked how his stand-up matches up against Florian's, Stevenson replied, "That's going to come up to preparation; who he's been training with, who I've been training with.
"We've put a lot of time and thought into everything," added the California native. "You can train for something as much as you want, but you've got to go out and do that in front of millions of people with just you and him. And you only get a little bit of time to hear your coach remind you or tell you. It has to be programmed in you."
Both Stevenson and Florian have had title shots and each has come up short. Each is possibly one win away from getting back to the opportunity to compete for a UFC championship.
"My whole game plan is to get that title before my 10-year high school reunion, so I've got another year. Anywhere between that time is fine with me," Stevenson said only half jokingly. "Honestly, I can't think about who's next, or what I'm going to have to do to get that title shot. I've got to beat Kenny Florian. That's what I have to do, and that's what I'm planning on doing."