Today on the UFC’s website is a lengthy article about BJ Penn. The Prodigy was apparently in a joking mood and even suggested headlines for the article. I guess he’s staying loose for UFC 80 when he will battle Joe Stevenson (January 19th) for the vacant UFC lightweight title belt.
“I’m training a lot harder,” admits Penn, who hasn’t always been known for his Spartan work ethic. “Back in the day I used to pride myself on how little I could do and get away with it; now I try to pride myself on how much I do. I try to work real hard, train as much as I can, eat healthy food, and I want to see how far I can take it.
”For most fighters, a realization like this comes after a series of crippling setbacks or when reaching a milestone age like 30 or 35 and realizing that what you’ve been doing for years just isn’t working. Penn though, is more popular than ever after his stint as a coach on season five of The Ultimate Fighter and a dominant win over Jens Pulver in the show’s season finale. As for his previous two losses, he dropped a close nod to interim welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre and then lost to Matt Hughes in the third round after dominating the first two rounds and then breaking his rib – not exactly a call for panic, but for Penn when he turned 28 in December of 2006, he decided that just being among the best in the world wasn’t enough.
“I guess the wakeup call was December 13, 2006, when I turned 28,” said Penn, 29. “I said ‘what am I doing, why am I messing around? This is the biggest sport in the world, it’s gonna overtake everything, I’m at the forefront. Why am I playing games?’”
Penn then discusses how he saw the move from flabby 170 to 155 as a chance to make things right after starting to struggle at 170.