‘Close but no cigar’ is a phrase that Kenny Florian can relate too, having come within touching distance of the title on three occasions, and on all three he’s come away empty handed.

Most recently was his decision loss to Gray Maynard in a bout that would have earned him a third shot at the title had he emerged victorious.

The TUF season 1 finalist remains undeterred however, and is now determined to climb back to the top of the 155lb ladder once again.

“I’m just going to go in there and train hard and fight hard, and get back to the top,” Florian tells MMAWeekly in a new interview. “Whoever I need to face to do that, I’m willing to do it. You know, I just wanna face the top guys and I know I’m a few fights away from that, but I’m willing to do it man.

“I did for a couple of years to work my way back up after [losing to Sean] Sherk, and I’m willing to it again man. But, I’m confident if all things come into place when they are supposed to I’ll do it, I’ll finally get that belt.”

The lightweight division is only going to be strengthened come January thanks to the WEC merger, but Florian appears excited rather than daunted by the prospect despite now having new obstacles to overcome.

“Not only is it the deepest [division] but now it’s the biggest. So, you know, it’s something that I’m used to though, the competition is tremendous in that weight class and that’s why I’m in this sport, that’s why it’s so motivating to me and so exciting.”

Florian says he learned a lot from his last loss to current No.1 contender Maynard, and it’s given him an indication of what areas he needs to improve on if he is to finally realize his dream of becoming a champion.

“It’s good to find that information out now and I’m working on all those steps and it’s getting much, much better, so I’m excited. You always have to tailor your training not for most of the guys, but for the absolute elite and the best of the best. So, I was training with high level guys, but not as much as I needed to. So, I’ve been making up a lot of hours in the last couple of months man.”

We’ll get to see the results of that hard work when Florian takes on Evan Dunham in the main event of the UFN 23: Fight For The Troops event on January 22nd.

Check out Florian’s full interview below.