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Exclusive: B.J. Penn’s Trainer Talks Edgar Fight, Says Penn Was Battling Sinus Infection

(Photo courtesy of

by Cage Potato contributor Elias Cepeda

After losing the lightweight title to Frankie Edgar Saturday night at UFC 112, it has been a long couple of connecting flights from the United Arab Emirates back home to Hawaii for Team BJ Penn. Fresh off the plane, Penn’s coach Rudy Valentino spoke with Cage Potato about what went wrong in the fight and what is next for Penn.

All three judges scored the fight for Frankie Edgar – for what it’s worth I scored the fight for Edgar as well – but every single round was close and was difficult to score. How did you view the outcome?

One judge scored every round for Edgar but what I saw in the fight when I was watching it, and I haven’t watched it again on tape, but watching it as it happened, I felt that BJ won the first three rounds. The fourth round was even and I think he lost the last round. So I feel BJ won the fight. He was also battling a sinus infection and was on antibiotics, so he was not one hundred percent. I’m not making any excuses, that is just what happened. I didn’t see him lose that fight but I did see him lose the last round. As for effectiveness of punches, I thought BJ had it. Frankie got two takedowns but BJ got up real fast and nothing happened on the ground there, so I don’t know if they could score the fight based on those two takedowns.

People who are not fans of Penn might still think that sounds like an “excuse.”

I’m not taking anything from Frankie Edgar. He fought a real good fight and had a good strategy. His stand-up was good, he was moving a lot in and out real fast. Frankie fought a very good and strategic fight. I don’t want this to be about criticizing Frankie because I like him and he fought well.

It was a close fight and reasonable people can certainly feel that either guy edged out the other, but there is no way you guys wanted it to be that close, no fighter would want to leave it to the judges. What went wrong in the fight to make it closer than you all had wanted it to be? From my seat looking back at the fight it struck me that BJ didn’t fight the bigger man’s fight. For the first time in a while he was not the smaller and much quicker fighter. Frankie is quick and shorter than BJ. Yet, throughout their fight, BJ wasn’t first and he didn’t use his jab enough. He also didn’t make Edgar feel his weight by going for takedowns, putting him against the cage or putting him on his back, where he would have had a big advantage. Is that what you saw as well?

One of the mistakes, well, I wouldn’t say mistakes, but one thing that BJ couldn’t this fight was get his combinations off. He would throw one punch at a time. It was one punch and then come back with one punch. When he came back in the corner in between rounds I told him to try and get more punches in and to go from punches to takedowns – to work something on the ground. From the second round on I was telling him to take it to the ground. I even told him that if Edgar took him down to keep it on the ground that way as well. Once I saw that Edgar was doing pretty good with his standup, I thought it was a good idea to take it to the ground.

Going into the 5th round I told BJ that he had to win this round to win the fight. But sometimes things don’t go the right way. Being on antibiotics and struggling to get better from being sick and having a fever over the course of two weeks, these were some of the factors that slowed him down. That wasn’t the BJ Penn that we had in camp for three months going through sparring partners the way he did. We never took Frankie Edgar like he wasn’t a world contender. We took him very serious. We knew he could do damage to BJ in stand up and with takedowns. We were working BJ Penn wasn’t 100 percent, what you saw in the fight was him battling being sick. He didn’t want to call Dana three weeks before the fight and cancel because he was sick. BJ being the champion that he is just went in there and fought.

But yeah, in my opinion, BJ was countering too much and just waiting. What happened was he was trying too hard in a couple rounds. He needed to relax a little bit more. He could feel something was going wrong in the fight.

Even before the fight started, BJ looked a little softer than he had in his last few fights at lightweight. Not that he isn’t in infinitely better shape than we’ll ever be, but his look combined with the fact that he seemed to be slower and more tired late in the fight when he hadn’t gotten overly tired in his previous fights makes me wonder if he was doing the same type of work he did before, for this fight. He decided to bring his training camp back to Hawaii for this fight. In his last one, he took it to California to better focus. Was BJ doing the conditioning training that he needed to prepare for Frankie?

Yes. We had the Marinoviches come over. We had the camp the exactly how we did the previous two fights. When he gets sick, some people recover quickly but it took awhile, a couple weeks to recover. He wasn’t able to train for a couple weeks so that makes it tougher. But people react differently to that type of stuff. But BJ trained the way he needed to prepare and worked just as hard on his conditioning as he did for the last couple of fights.

So the fight doesn’t go your way. It was a huge upset. People haven’t really heard form BJ or his camp yet – what did he say after the fight, what did you tell him?

When we got back into the locker room BJ said ‘Sorry guys.’ He did the best he could after being sick and all of that. He said, “I did the best I could. I couldn’t get things off and going. I wanted to do something and couldn’t get it to come out.” He apologized to us but I told him “Hey, just got to go back to the camp start training and get going.” Everything happens for a reason and maybe this reason is next time we get sick don’t fight (laughs). Who was the better man that night? That’s what it came down to.

This next question is one I had for you guys before this fight. Given that BJ hadn’t lost at lightweight in about eight years prior to Saturday, people were talking about him moving up in weight again. He even said that if things went well against Edgar he would consider testing the waters at 170 again. We know he is willing to do it and that he can do well at higher weights, but it just doesn’t seem fair to me for him to take on such heavier guys. I look at him and see a 145-pounder. He won the Mundials at around that weight, and though that was a long time ago, he doesn’t look super leaned out at lightweight. It is a different sport but Oscar De La Hoya, for example, fought the best of his career at 147 and he’s 5’11. BJ is 5’9. He always seems interested in making history – so had you all ever considered moving to 145 to become the first person in MMA history to win world titles at three different weight classes?

No, because making 155 is the limit for BJ, I feel, to be honest. He had considered 170 again just to fight GSP. But we had long talks about what he was going to do and he wanted to stay 155 to make his legacy in that weight division. We are now just waiting for Dana to give us the call for Frankie Edgar again.

So if you had your way as a coach, you’d want an automatic rematch for BJ against Frankie?

Straight to the rematch. I was talking to BJ and we are looking for a straight automatic rematch. We don’t know when but we’d like it in Hawaii.

Those ideas of moving up again are gone then for now?

There is no moving up right now. That is not in our plans BJ wanted to have another fight in 155 after Edgar before trying welterweight again. I just spoke to him and he has no plans to move up again. We want to fight Frankie again as soon as possible. If he had won this fight he wanted to fight every month and a half. Had he defended the title, he wanted to fight again within the next month and a half and that was our plan, that’s how training camp was going. We just have to wait for Dana’s word.

Cagepotato Comments

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sandman- April 15, 2010 at 11:34 am
Congrats to Frankie !! Well done !!
dedawarrior- April 15, 2010 at 9:50 am
It sounds like Rudy and BJ's boxing coach need to get together and discuss their public statements. I suggest everyone read both statements. His boxing coach seems to have (in my opinion) the best explanation of Penn's performance regarding the fight. He didn't really make any excuses for BJ. He said that Penn was in good shape so if anything maybe he was overtrained (but it didn't come off as an excuse). He put more emphasis on the fact that BJ, for whatever reason, just did not seem to be as energetic about this fight. He said he thought the week before BJ was exactly where he needed to be. However on fight night, he said when they were walking out, he can usually feel BJ's energy and excitement, and he said he never felt that way. He said BJ was really just flat. He said that he felt like BJ thought he had the talent to beat Edgar.

The guy's comments don't come off as negative about BJ as they sound in my wiriting because I am just summarizing. I am actually a huge BJ fan. Honestly, the interview sounded like it was just an honest refelction of what he felt as his boxing coach. He said he had spoken to BJ that morning and they talked about a couple of new things coming up, and BJ was doing fine. His comments sounded refreshing with no excuses of a sinus infection or anything else. Maybe BJ was suffering a sinus infection, but I can't imagine that would keep him from not being able to perform to the upper level tier of fighting that he and only a few others can achieve. I hate that someone close to BJ's camp states that the sinus infection was a big issue, and he thinks BJ still won the fight-even though I am a BJ fan.

I, myself, didn't think there was much hype about this fight. Unless I am mistaking, there wasn't the normal blog from BJ, the daily videos, the training updates and tweets throughout this particular training for his fight. I didn't feel the energy from him either, and I thought he had a rather dull look on his face the night he walked out. No matter what, I still think he is a CHAMP, but he's like any other fighter, he can be beaten on any given day, particularly if he feels that his talent alone can win it, or possibly he doesn't train as hard or overtrains, or if he is sick. If you workout, you know that over or under training can have the same effects on your game. Judging BJ alone, it just wasn't one of his best performances. I don't think that should take anything away from how great he is or how great Edgar was that night. Edgar was the more aggressive fighter that night, and he won the fight.

Congratulations to BJ for all he has given to the sport and will continue to give and congratulations to Frankie Edgar for beoming the new title holder!
failingev0lution- April 13, 2010 at 11:39 pm
1) @SkinnyBigs: You obviously have no idea how to win an MMA fight, what fighting is about, how scoring is measured, or where your head is in direct relation to your ass. I would enjoy seeing you try to walk after taking multiple Rua leg kicks...over and over and over again. MAKING MY POINT WITH CAPS AND EXCLAMATIONS MEANS I WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Seriously. Nubs. GTFO.
kingmantis- April 13, 2010 at 3:24 pm
I have no problem giving credit where it's due. BJ Penn is one of the most talented MMA fighters in the game when he wants to be. But that doesn't mean I don't think he isn't an ego-maniacal, spoiled little douchebag either. Are you freaking joking me? This guy phones in a title defense and has the stones to not only demand an immediate rematch BUT IN HIS HOMETOWN? Damn homie...
Oh and I don't buy this sinus excuse for a second. If he weren't 100% he could've easily gone in there and used those freakish grappling skills to finish Edgar instead of trying to knock his head off. BJ is just a spoiled bully. He was able to bully Sanchez because his standup just wasn't in his league and I honestly think Florian just wasn't mobile enough. If Florian had followed Edgar's gameplan, blasted Penn's legs with kicks and stayed out of his range, he would've eventually quit against Florian too. I guess physical gifts aren't everything if you're used to your opponents running head-first into your fist.
skinnYBIGGS- April 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm
Ugh some of you must have attention disorder of some degree , from watching the fight the first 3rounds goto Penn re watch scorecard yourself and everytime you do u realize just how much the judges fucked up, besides that weve seen worse blah blah Machida and Shogun personally its the complete opposite of 112 , Machida knocked out the champ in devastating fashion to take the belt , whats Shogun do kick run kick run he was very intimidated of machidas striking.To take a belt i feel you need to TKO SUB, no decision should go especially when u can visible see the other fighter may be making more movement but its not in a forward motion its not to set every strike up its RUNNING RUNNING Frank egar comes in and fights a BJpenn who if you watched prior fights u knew he wasnt 100% but u bash him for making excuses how do u know he felt obligated to fight injured and risk the title??? soo many people do that backout because of injury. the main event is evident , i bet Dana said come on kid we already had one injury dropout we cant loose a title defender on this PPV too...If GSP gets a re match after TAPPING , people TAPPING i cant fight no more LOL , he gets the chance but not only that he gets it in his hometown...soo why is it OUTRAGEOUS that BJPENN would want the same respect....if any of you follow UFC event by event u know BJPENN has defended his title more times then any other belt holder ANY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! soo that speaks volumes , ur all fools to bash him for wanting a immediate rematch think outside the box and maybe you can see the clearer picture other then allowing your negative impressions of the man cloud your view....BJ PENN WILL TAKE THE BELT FROM EDGAR in 2nd KO MARK THIS POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
danomite- April 13, 2010 at 1:37 pm
you sure it wasn't a yeast infection?
Newport434- April 13, 2010 at 10:53 am
why did penn not take it to the ground? Maybe his gut got in the way
ccman- April 13, 2010 at 8:20 am
Dunno if he was sick or not but I hate hearing an outside reason after a loss since now no matter if true or not it sounds like weak excuses (thanks tito, ruined it for everyone)

That said, it is still pretty hard for anyone who has followed BJ to think he was 100% for this one, especially after seeing his last 2 fights. but again, if you are too sick, cancel. get someone in there who is 100%
TellaTruth- April 13, 2010 at 7:28 am
he really did get the snot beat out of him.
Howie214- April 13, 2010 at 7:07 am
hyper1- April 13, 2010 at 7:04 am
LMFAO!...Gotta love it! Poor snotty nosed Baby J.
RPS13- April 13, 2010 at 6:44 am
this is exactly why i hate bj penn and hope he gets eaten by a pack of wolves
ReX13- April 13, 2010 at 6:38 am
failingev0lution Says:
Mon, 04/12/2010 - 22:42

". . . if you think Penn is fat or lazy you're crazier than Anderson Silva."

Yeah, i'm nuttier than a shithouse rat, then. History upholds the idea that Penn relies too much on his talent (which he has tons of) and too little on hard work. After losses, he seems to rededicate himself and begin kicking ass and chewing bubblegum, but he loses focus. This "fat and lazy" cycle is the reason i've never been able to get behind Penn.

And just one more note: Penn has always been a top tier guy whose only losses came to other champions, most of whom were at least welterweights. Now, a loss to a guy who could make featherweight. Where's is BJ's head at?
ytrebil- April 13, 2010 at 6:25 am
They were his wank rags from watching GSP’s HL reel.

Dan Hardy vs Blowie Penn @ WW.
hyper1- April 13, 2010 at 6:23 am
BJ did in fact have a sinus infection!...His mom still has the snot rags to prove it in court.
ytrebil- April 13, 2010 at 5:59 am
I must be one of a handful of people who doesn't actually like Blow Job Penn. I find him absurdly arrogant, I think his camp are a bunch of bullsh*tting, excuse making idiots and too many people hype him into something he's not.

I want to see him rematch Matt Hughes, so Hughes can end Blowie's career.

So-long peanut head!
ctownhood- April 13, 2010 at 5:33 am
I haven't seen anywhere where BJ has made an excuse for far as I have seen he congratulated Edgar on winning. What his coaches and family says is irrelevant.
fatbellyfrank- April 13, 2010 at 2:36 am
At least it throws up a couple of decent potential fights, dazednConfused has done the matchmaking, Dana, over to you.
paskhl- April 13, 2010 at 12:39 am
@Emopinata,just wait,it will come out of his mouth pretty soon,but b4 he's got to let momma speak...snif...snif...
paskhl- April 13, 2010 at 12:30 am
Sure you do,like his momma and his coach.
Are you gonna go to court too?
DazedNConfused- April 13, 2010 at 12:24 am
Even a BJ Penn with a Sinus Infection should beat Edgar. FACT. Fuck you BJ Penn. You lost me money, and came in looking like a cabbage patch doll again, all fat and unprepared.

It really is amazing to see the difference between him against Sanchez and now against Edgar. His body looked different, his striking was crisper, he was just a beast.

As for now I think BJ should fight Gomi. Florian deserves Edgar. And Guida can fight Maynard. The real champ should be decided by the end of the year. There I just did the UFC's job. Pay me.
GSP for Prime Minister- April 13, 2010 at 12:04 am
I TOTALLY CALLED IT.. as soon as he lost, I KNEW he was going to cry about some sort of excuse..
El Topo- April 12, 2010 at 10:02 pm

I like Frankie but he won't hold on to that belt.
budsellers- April 12, 2010 at 9:39 pm
i want to see the penn vs edgar rematch because i still doubt frankie and i believe that is the only way bj will be able to even the score with frankie and still be a main event. i am just a fan who knows next to nothing about matchmaking. i cant even pick winners consitsently, but i am sure that frankie will not be able to defend the belt against bj or any of the top contenders. if they give aldo or cerrone a shot at the ufc 155, frankie loses.
Jersey Shua- April 12, 2010 at 9:22 pm
Ahh.. the excuses, I knew it was only a matter of time before someone in BJ's camp came out with some BS. Between BJ and Tito, I'm sick of excuses every time someone loses. Just man up and say you got beat.