Updates from Memphis

The Globe's Nancy Marrapese-Burrell is providing updates from Memphis, Tenn., where Boston's Kenny Florian will take on Clay Guida at UFC 107 on Saturday.
Dec. 12, 2009

UFC 107 live chat

Nancy will host a live chat during UFC 107 Saturday night to provide updates and insight during the event. She'll try to answer some readers' questions.

Dec. 11, 2009

Weigh-in brings the heat

MEMPHIS -- It was impossible not to feel the intensity this afternoon at the FedEx Forum where the weigh-ins were held for tomorrow night's UFC 107.

But what was more of a spectacle, though, was the amount of fighters who had to drop their final layer of clothing behind a towel on the scale in order to make weight.

At one point, a fan in the audience yelled, "Fix the scale!'' because it seemed every other fighter on the undercard was over the limit in their respective weight classes.

On the main card, there was only one fighter - Diego Sanchez - who was over. Typically, they are given a one-pound buffer as leeway unless it's a title fight. In Sanchez's case, he will be fighting reigning champion B.J. Penn for the lightweight belt. Penn weighed in at 155 and Sanchez at 156. Once he dropped his shorts, however, Sanchez came in at 154.5 pounds.

Dover native Kenny Florian, who is fighting Clay Guida in a lightweight bout, came in at 156 as did Guida.

Jon Fitch and Mike Pierce, who are clashing in the welterweight division, each weighed in at 171. In the heavyweight division, Stefan Struve was at 247 and his opponent, Paul Buentello, was at 255.

In what promises to be one of the more entertaining and hotly contested fights tomorrow will be between former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, who tipped the scales at a robust 264.5 (a half pound shy of the limit) and Cheick Kongo, who was at 239.

Typically, when the fighters finish weighing in, they pose together facing each other to create not only a photo opportunity but to generate excitement among the fans in their last look at each other before squaring off for real in the octagon.

When Mir and Kongo completed their weigh-ins, however, Kongo turned his back on Mir and refused to look at him. Mir was clearly amused by the move and just laughed.

Posted by: nmarrapese-burrell | Time: 6:04 PM

Dec. 10, 2009

Just two days away

MEMPHIS - Heavyweights Frank Mir and Cheick Kongo, two days away from squaring off in the FedEx Forum octagon in UFC 107, sat on opposite sides of the table on the stage at the Peabody Hotel Ballroom where UFC president Dana White presided over the press conference for the upcoming event.

It has been well established that there is plenty of bad blood between the pair with Mir, the former UFC heavyweight champ, the more colorfully outspoken on the subject.

"I talk a lot and some of things I said he didn't enjoy hearing," said Mir. "I don't think it's really a dislike as far as on a personal note. I just think opinionated fighters say things and it ruffles people's feathers."

Kongo, who was even more blunt, said he respected the fact that Mir is a former champion but as a person, he doesn't respect him.

"I can't let anyone judge me or treat me like a piece of [expletive] and he did," Kongo said. "So that's why."

As much as Mir is focused on facing Kongo, he admits his mind is never too far from thinking about another shot at defending heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, who is recovering from a severe case of diverticulitis. At times it has crossed over into obsession. Mir and Lesnar have fought twice, with Mir winning on Feb. 2, 2008 and Lesnar prevailing earlier this year on July 11, the last time Lesnar fought before falling seriously ill.

"It's funny, my camp and my wife, in particular, were very worried about that because self-admittedly I am kind of obsessed with the Brock fight," said Mir. "But the advantage of being a somewhat intelligent person, I realize that if I am not successful on Saturday, any chances of me having a fight with Brock are pretty much a foregone conclusion [that it won't happen]. So, first and foremost, I have to have a fight against Cheick and be very dominant in the fight. Even a close win decision really doesn't move me up that high up on the ladder when you have a Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez who are already out there and are pretty much at the the top of the food heap right now if Brock is able to come back and be healthy."

White said he was limited in what he could reveal given Lesnar's insistence on privacy regarding his status but he said he will know a great deal more about Lesnar's future in a month or six weeks.

"He had that minor surgery and he's going to change his diet and do some things and see what happens," said White. "He did go to the Mayo Clinic [to get checked out]."

There have been reports that Lesnar's career could be over and White acknowledged that was possible but his future won't be known for a while.

"It could be forever, we won't know for the next couple of months," said White. "I'm hoping that's not the case. We'll see what happens. He believes he's going to come back. He's in a much better place than he was when he was in the hospital. The question now is he's either going to need major surgery or he's not. We won't know for the next couple of months. The doctor said he's only been at 60 percent for the last year. That's scary it itself. The thing just hit him all of a sudden. I'm going to wait and see whether he has to have this major surgery before I make any big decisions [regarding the status of the heavyweight division]."

Penn, Sanchez do their own version of trash talking

In the featured bout, defending lightweight champion B.J. Penn will face off against top contender Diego Sanchez. Penn's last fight was against Dover, Mass. native Kenny Florian on Aug. 8 in Philadelphia where Penn earned the win in the fourth round with a rear-naked choke submission. Sanchez doesn't lack confidence but Penn, who is being trained by Marv Marinovich (father of former quarterback Todd Marinovich), is the one with the belt.

"I was watching the [UFC Countdown] show the other day and Diego had some words," said Penn. "He said I was going to run and he was begging me to meet him in the middle. I just want you to know Diego, you're not fighting Joe Stevenson, you're not fighting Kenny Florian. You're fighting B.J. Penn. I'm not going to be hard to find and I'll see you in the middle."

Penn acknowledged that at times in his career he hasn't enjoyed it as much as he should've. Just prior to fighting Florian, he said he had a sort of epiphany which told him that he should be having more fun with it and living in the moment rather than stressing out about all aspects of his career.

"Everything gets monotonous after a while," he said. "We love to do this stuff but when you're in training camp, you have to do this stuff. As time goes on, the opportunity is only so big that you have at the UFC and I want to look back on this and I want to know that I enjoyed it. This is one great big dream that a kid had one day so I'd better sit back, relax and take a look and really enjoy this whole thing."

Neither Florian nor his opponent - Clay Guida - were at the conference.

Weigh in is at the FedEx Forum tomorrow afternoon.

Posted by: nmarrapese-burrell | Time: 5:15 PM

Dec. 9, 2009

Welcome to Memphis

He walked into the Heritage Ballroom at the Downtown Marriott a little after noon today, a big grin on his face. Kenny Florian looked extremely lean, fit and relaxed as he participated in an informal workout with his trainer -- Firas Zahabi -- in front of a media contingent.

The "workout" was more photo opportunity than anything for the three days leading up to UFC 107 Saturday at the FedEx Forum here but what was most telling was the air of confidence coming from the Florian camp (the 155-pound fighter himself, Zahabi, Florian's brother, Keith, and boxing coach Peter Welch.

Florian, who is coming off a loss to B.J. Penn for the lightweight title (Florian's second shot) in August, said he has done things very differently leading up to this bout. Most notably, he has employed Firas to head his training after parting ways with long-time coach Mark DellaGrotte, who is based in Somerville.

"I just needed to improve my overall game, I guess that's what it comes down to,'' said Florian, who will face Clay "The Carpenter" Guida on Saturday night. "My boxing wasn't where it needed to be at, my wrestling wasn't where it needed to be at and I didn't perform like I know I could've. That's really what hurt me the most. Sometimes you have a good night, sometimes you have an off-night and it wasn't my night that night."

Florian said part of the reason he didn't feel in optimum condition heading into the Penn fight wasn't of so much a physical nature but of a mental one. He fought and beat Joe Stevenson in UFC 91 on Nov. 15, 2008 but didn't get back into the octagon until Aug. 8, nearly nine months later. That is a long time between fights, particularly when you're heading into a challenge for the title.

"When you have about nine months between fights, you want it too bad," said Florian. "I think I wanted it too bad. I may have overdone it with my training a little bit."

As much as he wanted to beat Penn, his focus is now strictly on Guida because if he beats Guida, he gets back into the picture toward getting another title shot.

But Guida is plenty motivated as well. Guida last fought Diego Sanchez (who is facing Penn in the marquee fight on Saturday) on June 20 and lost in a split decision. It was one of the most hotly contested bouts in recent memory.

"I'm very excited to fight Kenny, I've got a lot of respect for him," said Guida, who is also working with a new coach in Greg Jackson.

"He's a great guy and a great fighter. Outside of B.J. Penn, I think he's the best striker in the lightweight division and I'm excited to test myself against a very good striker.''

Guida said as much as he respects his former opponent -- Sanchez -- he thinks that Penn will retain the lightweight title on Saturday.

"B.J. fights in a whole different building,'' said Guida. "To me, I compare it to like Jimi Hendrix. They say he plays in a whole different building than other guitarists. He's just a different animal at 155. Diego brings just that warrior spirit, nonstop. I'm expecting one of the best lightweight fights until I get in there and get to mix it up with either one of them.''

Posted by: nmarrapese-burrell | Time: 4:35 PM

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