Looking to reload after losing to lightweight champion B.J. Penn, Kenny Florian is taking a page out of Georges St. Pierre's book.
The veteran 155-pounder from Boston has left coach Mark DellaGrotte and thrown in his lot with Firas Zahabi and other members of the Montreal-based team that has helped make welterweight champion St. Pierre one of the best pound-for-pound mixed martial arts fighters today.
"Georges is good for a reason. He has the best people around him," Florian said. "Of course, it's his work ethic (too). I've always had a very good work ethic. I look at Georges and how hard he trains, it's amazing to me.
"And having the opportunity to work with Georges himself, I work with him every single day that I'm in Montreal, he's such a huge help and gives me so much confidence when we're training. . . . I've learned so much from Georges, I've learned so much from all the guys up there."
Florian (13-4, including 9-3 in the UFC) gets to show off his development as a fighter when he takes on Clay Guida on Saturday at UFC 107 in Memphis. The main event at the FedExForum features Penn against Diego (Nightmare) Sanchez.
The Florian-Guida fight is like a consolation final for the main event. Florian lost to Penn and Guida dropped a split decision to Sanchez in a wild fight last time out.
Florian alternated his camp between Montreal and Boston, bringing Zahabi down to Beantown for a week as well. He also worked with Zahabi prior to the Penn bout in August but "not as much as I would have liked." He spent just 10 days with the Canadian coach in a marathon fight prep that stretched eight months.
Also helping out is strength and conditioning guru Jon Chaimberg of Montreal.
"My body definitely has changed," Florian said approvingly. "I definitely am at my biggest and at my leanest. ... I feel very, very strong. I feel I'm at my quickest, and I'm in tremendous shape right now."
The 33-year-old Florian now considers his brother Keith and Zahabi his head coaches.
"Firas has been an amazing addition to the team," he said. "He's a guy who I believe is the smartest coach in mixed martial arts today. And I think everybody's at least a couple of years behind what Firas is doing with his team."
That's high praise indeed from Florian, one of the more cerebral fighters in the sport.
Realizing that all aspects of his game had to improve, Florian put himself through drills and exercises he had never done before, while learning "a whole new system" of striking from Zahabi.
"We've really gone back to the basics. I feel like it's been a total rebirth, a total upgrade of what I've been doing."
Florian continues to work with striking coach Peter Welch and has also started working his jiu-jitsu with John Danaher and training at the Montreal Wrestling Club, both integral parts of GSP's team.
"I really feel like I have the best minds in the world in my corner and I'm looking forward to making them proud on Dec. 12," he said.
Florian was pretty much shut out against Penn. Nothing he tried worked, with the exception of a few leg kicks. He failed to take Penn down and his repeated clinches at the fence did not seem to tire the champion out. Penn was quicker with his hands and proved lethal on the ground when he took Florian down in the fourth and submitted him.
Florian said if he could change one thing about the Penn fight, it would have been to have spent more time with Zahabi in advance.
"But this is how we learn. Sometimes you have to fall down a little bit to realize your mistakes. . . . It was for a reason. I think I learned a lot from that B.J. Penn fight. God willing, I'll have a third crack at the belt. B.J. didn't get it the first two times, he got it the third. Hopefully I can do the same."
Florian compares the changes recently he has made to the self-examination he put himself through losing his first crack at the title against Sean Sherk at UFC 64 in October 2006. A reinvigorated Florian went on to win his next six fights before running into Penn.
"I believe people are going to see even more of a change in the way that I look and fight from here on out. It's going to be more of a change than what it was after the Sherk fight."
The coaching landscape in MMA can get complicated. Zahabi is linked to fellow coach Greg Jackson through fighters like St. Pierre. Jackson is helping Guida prepare for Florian.
"Business is business," said Florian.
Jackson will probably be in Guida's corner while Zahabi will be in Florian's. "May the best man win," said Florian, who acknowledges Jackson may well be part of his braintrust for future fights.
Adding to the mix, Zahabi and his Montreal team helped Roger Huerta prep for Florian before UFC 87 in August 2008.
"It's funny how it works out," said a laughing Florian, who won by decision over Huerta.
Guida (25-7) is 5-4 in the UFC but has won three of four since losing to Huerta in December 2007. He is an Energizer Bunny of a fighter.
"He keeps coming, he keeps going. He has a head like a brick," said Florian. "He's one of those guys who's a survivor, and he's very, very tough. I have my work cut out for me. This is a great fight for me to get back on track. He's a very well-respected opponent, he's one of the best out there and that's who I want to fight. That' the only people I want to fight."
Florian acknowledges that Guida's record could be far different. Guida was having the best of it against Huerta before being caught in a choke in an all-action fight and his losses to Diego Sanchez and Tyson Griffin were both split decisions.
NOTES -- Maximum Fighting Championship boss Mark Pavelich has apologized "for that horrible main event" at MFC 23 in suburban Edmonton last Friday. Thales Leites won a decision over Dean Lister in a dull middleweight contest. "I will make it up to you in 2010," Pavelich said on Twitter. .. Heavyweight James McSweeney broke his hand in his win over Darrill Schoonover on Saturday night in the Season 10 finale to "The Ultimate Fighter" and is slated for hand surgery Tuesday.