November 29, 2012
Penn looking to save his legacy
By Neil Springer, QMI Agency
It wasn’t too long ago that B.J. (The Prodigy) Penn was considered among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
For years, the former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion’s name was alongside the likes of Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva as the best in the business.
But after losing the 155-pound title to Frankie Edgar in 2010, Penn went 1-2-1 inside the octagon and his reputation slid into the also-ran category. His last outing saw him receive a vicious beating from Nick Diaz at UFC 137 more than a year ago.
Following the defeat, Penn appeared to have turned his back on MMA. But it wasn’t long before he realized his legacy was in jeopardy. Whenever fans and journalists debated the top fighters on the planet, the Hawaiian wasn’t in the discussion.
It lit a fire under Penn.
“I actually texted (UFC president Dana White) a couple months ago. I said, ‘Dana, I watch all these interviews and no one says my name when they talk about the greatest fighters any more,’” Penn said on a UFC conference call Tuesday. “I really don’t like that. It bothers me. I know it’s my fault. I know I’m the reason people don’t talk about me when they talk about GSP or Anderson Silva. My name was always in the mix. It’s never in the mix anymore. I told Dana I’ve got a real problem with that.
“That was actually a big part of my motivation to come back strong.
“Everything is current. I’m a glass half-empty kind of guy. Everything is current and I just don’t want to be known as, ‘Oh, he was good back in the day.’ I want to be known as one of the best. With that said, I don’t want to sit here and sound like I want more admiration. I still have something left to accomplish.”
Penn looks to stake is claim as one of the top fighters in MMA when he faces Rory (Ares) MacDonald at UFC on FOX 5 in Seattle on Dec. 8. The card will be headlined with a lightweight-title fight between Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz. Also, Mauricio Rua takes on Alexander Gustafsson.
Penn and MacDonald were originally set to fight at UFC 152 in Toronto on Sept. 22, but the latter was forced off the card after suffering a deep laceration courtesy of a spinning back-elbow in training. The cut required 38 stitches to close.
According to Penn, the extra preparation time was the best thing for him.
“I got back together with my old trainer that trained me for the Jens Pulver, Joe Stevenson and Sean Sherk fights,” Penn said. “We took my belly off.
“I was just going to get in shape a little, go there and give it my best effort. But Rory ended up pulling out 10 weeks before the last fight. He was saying he saw me and I looked fat, and a bunch of other things, like he’ll kill me in the ring. That really lit a fire under my butt. I’m down under 10% (body fat) now. I’m ready to go. I’m expecting the best B.J. Penn that I’ve ever seen.
“Fighting is still not a sport for me. Fighting is still a fight for me. It always has been. This isn’t putting balls in a hole. This has always been a fight for me. I just love it when it’s that way. I love it when my opponent says, ‘He’s fat. I’ll end up killing him. He’s nothing.’ It’s just wonderful. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
As far as Penn is concerned, MacDonald is the perfect opponent for his octagon return. Not only has the B.C. native been heralded by many as a future champion, he also trains at Tristar Gym. Penn has been looking to face another Tristar fighter since his 2009 loss to St. Pierre.
“I realized I can’t do this forever, so I might as well make the most of it,” Penn said. “He’s a great opponent. He’s an up-and-comer; he’s one of the top guys. Everybody says he’s going to be a champion soon. Fighting a guy like Rory — it wasn’t a tough decision. I’ve said in other interviews that I wanted another fight with Tristar again. They’re a great team. They’ve got a lot of champions in their club. I just think it’s a great fight all around.”
Though the two are still more than a week away from the fight, they’ve exchanged numerous barbs through the media and over Twitter. Penn also challenged MacDonald to join him in signing up with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency, which offers Olympic-style drug testing. As a result, both fighters have been subject to random screenings.
During a recent Twitter exchange Penn made a crack about MacDonald having acne on his back, a common side effect of steroid use. However, Penn said he isn’t accusing MacDonald of using PEDs.
“I’m not going to sit here and get into that with everybody right now,” Penn began. “I’m sure there are people in all sports that bend the rules, but I’m not going to sit here and point the finger. But as far as (VADA) is concerned, I realize that it’s a painstaking thing for the UFC.
“If I was going to make a comeback, I wanted to make it as safe as I can for when I step in the ring. That’s all this was about. I’m not pointing the finger. I’m not saying, ‘Rory, you do steroids,’ or anything like that. It has nothing to do with that. I’m just protecting my own butt.”
PENN WOULDN’T BACK DOWN FROM SILVA
Now that UFC welterweight champion Georges (Rush) St. Pierre’s victory over Carlos Condit is in the books, MMA fans are clamouring for any news regarding a potential superfight with middleweight titleholder Anderson (Spider) Silva.
Prior to UFC 154 in Montreal, UFC president Dana White said he would look to book the Montreal native against Silva, should he get past Condit. Mere hours before St. Pierre successfully unified the 170-pound titles, Silva held a news conference at the Bell Centre confirming his interest in the bout.
However, a seemingly reluctant St. Pierre refused to give the thumbs up at the UFC 154 post-fight press conference. He is currently on vacation and has not spoken to White about making the dream bout a reality.
But according to B.J. (The Prodigy) Penn, he wouldn’t have to think twice about accepting the fight in he were in St. Pierre’s shoes.
“That fight is up to Georges himself, but everyone on this phone call knows what B.J. Penn would do,” Penn said on a media call Tuesday. “You know what I would do if Dana called me to fight the champion above. You know what I would do.”
Of course, Penn is no stranger to superfights. In 2009, the then-lightweight champ failed to dethrone St. Pierre for the 170-pound title at UFC 94.
Though some feel such fights only serve to clog two divisions at once, Penn said superfights are great for MMA.
“It’s what this sport is about, what this sport was built on,” Penn said. “Get the two best fighters and put them in the ring. I’ve got to give it to Dana White — he does that every time. He doesn’t let any (Floyd) Mayweather-Pacquiao situations ever happen. He’s the man.”
GSP THE KING OF PPVS
According to UFC president Dana White, Georges (Rush) St. Pierre has reclaimed his crown as the MMA promotion’s top pay-per-view draw.
St. Pierre successfully unified the welterweight titles, winning an exciting unanimous decision over Carlos Condit at UFC 154 in Montreal on Nov. 17.
Though White refused to disclose the total number of buys, he said the card was a blockbuster.
“GSP delivered again,” White said on a conference call Tuesday. “It was awesome. It was a great weekend for us.
“It was a good show. The king of pay-per-view is back — let’s put it that way.”
UFC 154 marked the end of an 18-month hiatus for the Montreal native. His previous outing saw him set the North American record for live attendance, as 55,724 fans packed the Rogers Centre for his unanimous-decision victory over Jake Shields at UFC 129 April 30, 2011.
STRUGGLING SAKARA GETS EXTENSION
Alessio (Legionarius) Sakara has signed a new deal with the UFC.
Despite losing his past three fights, including a disqualification loss for illegal punches to the back of Patrick Cote’s head at UFC 154 in Montreal, the Italian middleweight has inked a four-fight extension.
Sakara’s manager Lex McMahon confirmed the news with MMA Fighting.
“We believe this gesture is indicative of the level of respect the UFC has for Alessio,” McMahon said. “We want to thank Dana White, Joe Silva, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta for their long-standing support of Alessio. He is very focused on showing his appreciation the next time he steps into the octagon.”
During the UFC 154 post-fight press conference, UFC president White scolded referee Dan Miragliotta for not stepping in sooner, allowing Cote to receive multiple illegal shots. White said he hopes to book a rematch soon.
ALDO MOVING UP?
Jose (Scarface) Aldo sees his coming bout with Frankie (The Answer) Edgar as a pivotal fight.
Aldo is set to defend his featherweight championship against Edgar at UFC 156 in Las Vegas on Feb. 2. However, the Nova Uniao fighter has said in the past that a move to 155 pounds is inevitable.
The way Aldo sees it, if he can beat the man who held the lightweight title for 22 months, he knows he belongs in the division.
“I’ve considered going to lightweight,” Aldo said through his translator at a a media luncheon Tuesday. “As soon as my trainer decides that I can go up, then I will. This fight with Edgar will be a turning point. If I can win (against) him well, then I can prove that I can go (to lightweight).
“He has a very strong reputation thanks to destroying several opponents. That’s the motivation for me to face him and that will be probably my last biggest challenge.”
TITLE-FIGHT REMATCHES IN BELLATOR
Bellator Fighting Championships has tweaked its title-shot format.
Though fighters will still be required to win tournaments in order to challenge division champions, starting next year the MMA promotion will allow title-fight rematches.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney made the announcement via bellator.com.
“When a fighter’s earned a shot at the world title by winning The Toughest Tournament in Sports and competes in a title fight that knocks fans like us back in our seats (win or lose), delivering an incredible fight, when a rematch is called for, we will deliver it,” Rebney wrote. “Championship fights give us some of the greatest moments in MMA. And, rematches of incredible championship fights will give fans like us more of those electrifying moments while staying true to the world’s best fighters having had to earn their way to those title shots.”