Penn: Too many athletes, not enough fighters

Frankie Edgar (right) won a controversial unanimous decision over B.J. Penn en route to capturing...

Frankie Edgar (right) won a controversial unanimous decision over B.J. Penn en route to capturing the lightweight championship at UFC 112 in April. At UFC 118 in Boston this weekend, Penn gets his rematch. (AFP PHOTO/KARIM SAHIB)

NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:24 AM ET

(The Prodigy) B.J. Penn sees a nasty trend forming in mixed martial arts.

According to the former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion, too many fighters are willing to wrestle their way to boring decisions.

“I think every fighter should have that same motivation to want to finish because it puts more money in all our pockets, it builds the UFC and just makes everybody happy all the way around,” Penn (15-6-1) said on a recent UFC conference call. “There is a lot of controversy over people taking the ‘fight’ out of ‘ultimate fighting’ and they really want to go to decision. They feel happy with that. If that’s the way they like to do things, that’s the way they do it. But for me, I’ve always been about the fight. I’m more of a fighter than an athlete.

“I vow to keep the ‘fight’ in ‘ultimate fighting.’”

It’s hard to argue that Penn doesn’t practice what he preaches – only three of his 15 wins have come by decision. He said the increase in conservative game plans is the result of judges placing too much emphasis on takedowns and grappling positions.

“Nobody wants to be on their back because even if the other guy doesn’t do one bit of damage, you’re still going to lose the fight,” Penn said. “That is really affecting how the fighters fight because the judges, as we all know, they don’t know what they’re doing.

“I don’t think anyone should get points for any of the grappling positions. What’s the sense of taking Demian Maia down and why should you get points for that? Why should you get points for mounting James Toney? It just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s all about damage and submission attempts. Those are the only things that matter in a fight.”

If Penn has his way, the judges won’t be a factor in his rematch with lightweight champion Frankie (The Answer) Edgar at UFC 118 in Boston on Saturday. The show will also feature a co-main event between boxer James (Lights Out) Toney and MMA legend Randy (The Natural) Couture.

At UFC 112 in April, Penn lost his championship as a result of a controversial unanimous decision to Edgar (12-1). Though Edgar appeared more active -- moving in and out on the feet, as well as securing a takedown -- some feel Penn out-struck the New Jersey native, landing the harder shots.

Though opinion on who won is split, Edgar never slowed and remained unpredictable as the fight progressed, while Penn began to tire in the championship rounds.

Edgar said a fighter needs to focus on his game plan and not worry about the judges during a bout.

“I can only really focus on myself and what I can do in there,” Edgar said. “I really can’t worry about what the judges are going to do. I just got to go in there, try to execute my game plan and try to sway the judges my way. But I really can’t focus on what their objectives are.”

Despite taking Penn’s belt, Edgar is still the underdog going into the rematch. Being one of the smaller lightweights in the division, Edgar is used to people counting him out.

“I think my last three or four fights I’ve been the underdog,” Edgar said. “So it’s a role I’m becoming comfortable with. I seem to perform pretty good in this position.

“I try not to even think about the title. It’s another fight. It’s another great challenge ahead for me and that’s how I approach it. So this is a totally new fight for me. Whether it’s a title defense or a new fight, old fight -- it doesn’t matter. It’s all the same to me.”

In the past, Penn has been criticized for not arriving in shape on fight night. Even though he put on a series of stellar performances prior to losing to Edgar, it’s a stigma he’s never quite been able to shake.

However, Penn said there is no lack of motivation for the rematch.

“When I first started fighting, I thought I was God’s gift to fighting,” Penn said. “I thought I would go 100-0, with 100 knockouts. I just sit back and look at my record and I can’t believe that I have six losses. It just blows me away.

“When you get back to reality and you get another loss on your record, you get a loss period, it’s easy to look back at what you did wrong and can improve. It stings. It’s there, it’s stinging and you want to fix it. It’s definitely motivation. If people are putting Frankie as the underdog, that’s exactly how I feel. I’m the underdog. I’m the guy that doesn’t want to let the sport pass him by. I want to stay at the forefront of this whole thing.”


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