VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Kenny Florian got through a self-imposed hell by not only making his weight cut, but by outlasting a hungry Diego Nunes for three rounds. It didn’t help that his Boston Bruins lost an airtight 1-0 game to the Canucks to go down 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Finals the night before, nor that he took a beating from fans because of his allegiances. It took some guts to get through so many obstacles, but he did it and now he's “more than likely” to get a title shot against Jose Aldo, according to Dana White.
Yet, one of the more interesting spectators to attend UFC 131 was Japanese fighter Hatsu Hioki. He wasn’t in town to watch hockey, nor to gloat over the lightweight Shooto championship he just vacated. He was in the building to talk scratch with the UFC, and to add a very interesting element to the 145-pound division. Nothing's been signed yet, but the operative word there is “yet.”
“Yes, I would like a contract,” Hioki told ESPN.com after UFC 131. “I haven’t signed one yet, but yes, pretty soon.”
ESPN currently has Hioki ranked No. 3 in the featherweight division, and his presence could open up some intriguing match-ups for the likes of Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes down the road. Hioki said earlier in the week that he would want to get a couple of fights in the UFC before he challenges for the belt, and make a detoured route to his destination.
So, presuming he got his initial glimpse of his future home in the Octagon, what did Hioki think the fights?
“It was an amazing event,” he said. “It was the first time for me to see a live event that’s a UFC. And Florian [versus Nunes] was a great fight, very tough fight. I am the biggest Florian fan. I like him very much. I am very glad to see him fight.”
Funny, I was thinking the same thing about Hioki. North American fans don’t know him (24-2-2) that well yet, but he’s very tall [6-feet], moves extremely well, has a long, advantageous reach and a deep grab bag of submissions. It’s only a matter of time before guys like Florian will be looking over their shoulder at the 27-year-old Japanese fighter that occasionally goes by the ominous nickname the “Iron Broom.”