It would seem a strange choice in training partners.
Having disposed of Matt Hughes in a mere 21 seconds, it would seem unlikely B.J. Penn has anything to learn from the former welterweight champ — a man he’s now beaten twice.
But the 32-year-old Hawaiian said there’s plenty he can glean from the Indiana wrestler as he prepares for his Feb. 27 fight against former welterweight contender Jon Fitch.
“I know he isn’t exactly like Fitch as far as height and boxing and kick-boxing goes,” admits Penn, who has a 16-7-1 record.
“But Fitch definitely pushes all his opponents. He’s grinding them out and pushing them on the fence and taking them down. Matt really pushed me in those areas. So I gained a lot of confidence working out with Matt.”
Penn, who moved back up to welterweight (170 lbs.) to meet Hughes at UFC 123 in November following back-to-back championship losses to Frankie Edgar as a lightweight (155 lbs.), says he is far more comfortable fighting bigger men and not having to cut weight.
“When it comes to 155 pounds, I don’t even like cutting the weight,” says Penn.
“It’s not a tough cut for me. I’d probably cut about three or four pounds on the day of the weigh-in.
“But, you know, you’ve got to cut down food and you’ve got to cut your water down and I don’t know if that’s a healthy thing.”
Penn, the first non-Brazilian to win the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship at the age of 20, has always taken a more philosophical approach to fighting, which is a big reason he disagrees with cutting mammoth amounts of weight.
“If someone said, ‘Let’s meet tomorrow at 12 o’clock to fight somewhere’ your family honour is on the line,” says Penn.
“The first thing I wouldn’t do is stop drinking water and stop eating.
“You know, I don’t see how that can help you and make you the stronger person. I see people IV and do all these things. I never thought about playing those games and sticking needles in my arm or doing stuff like that.
“But, you know, I come from a whole different mindset. I believe, you know, you get as healthy as you can and you go out and you fight the best (way) possible.”
He says that’s exactly what will happen when he meets Fitch in the main event of UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia.
“I know that when we get to Australia, we’re going to fight less than 24 hours after the weigh-in,” says Penn.
“So, you know, I’d rather be in the position that I’m in. Twenty hours later me and Jon Fitch are going to be standing in the ring looking across each other and, you know, I’m going to be happy that I was drinking water and eating as much food as I could the whole time.”
UFC 127 is available in Canada on pay-per-view on Feb. 26 because of the time difference.