UFC 118 special for White, Florian
Saturday's UFC 118 marks a homecoming for UFC president Dana White and top lightweight Kenny Florian as the promotion hits Boston for the first time.
White, who wore a Boston Red Sox jersey at Wednesday's pre-fight press conference, attended the University of Massachusetts-Boston, while Florian was born in Massachusetts and attended Boston College.
"It's a very personal gratification for me to be here in Boston," White said.
Florian, meanwhile, is exciting to feed off the hometown crowd when he faces Gray Maynard in a lightweight title eliminator.
"Again and again, Boston proves it's one of the most passionate sports towns in the world," Florian said.
UFC 118 might be the first time Florian competes in front of his friends and family at home, but he's accustomed a specific request. "People want tickets for every fight," he said. "It's something I'm used to."
Florian gave Maynard the upmost respect, claiming that the former NCAA wrestler is a bigger, better version of Sean Sherk, the former champ who defeated Florian back in 2006.
"If (the takedown) is there, I'm going to take it," said Maynard. "If not, I'm going to punch him in the face."
In the main event of UFC 118, lightweight champion Frankie Edgar will defend his title against BJ Penn, the same man he outpointed in April to win the title.
"I feel like I'm going to blow a lot of people away on Saturday night and they're going to be surprised at who B.J. Penn is," said the Hawaiian challenger, who received a rousing ovation.
Once again a heavy underdog, Edgar is not letting himself get distracted by the critics or Penn's aura as a legend.
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"I just approach it like any other opponent," said the New Jersey native. "The confidence I gained from the last fight has pushed me in the right direction."
Edgar and Penn are taking different approaches to Saturday's title rematch as Penn is counting on a stoppage, while Edgar predicts another close five-rounder.
"He's going to see somebody coming to finish the fight," Penn said. "I love to be the contender. Im taking a different approach to fighting. After I beat Frankie, I just want to be a guy that goes out and fights all the best fighters."
In the most hyped contest at UFC 118, boxing legend James Toney will make his MMA debut in a co-headliner against UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture.
Despite plenty of trash talk, Toney was respectful toward his adversary and the sport.
"I love MMA," said Toney, who shook Couture's hand after they posed for photos. "Don't get me wrong, I like what the UFC has done."
"(Toney) has more knockouts than (Couture) has fights," White said. "Anything can happen in a fight."
Only a few days removed from judgment day, Toney is still oozing confidence. "When the bell rings, I ain't going nowhere," said Toney. "I'm the heavyweight champ of the world. I'm the best fighter in the world. Period."
The 47-year-old Couture is treating Saturday's encounter just like any other fight.
"I don't feel any pressure," he said. "This is a mixed martial arts fight. We're still in that cage. I'm comfortable with that. I had a good camp and I'm ready to go."
White was asked whether he believed MMA had now surpassed boxing.
Toney immediately interrupted and proclaimed, "no way."
White was hesitant to get into a verbal debate with the 83-fight veteran, but responded by saying, "The two sports can live together, but mixed martial arts is the greatest combat sport in the world, no doubt."
With the UFC holding its first event in Boston, the promotion has reached another important milestone in its evolution. The UFC president promised there is more big news ahead.
"We're going to be announcing some things in the next month or so that are going to take it to the whole next level," said White.