Just a couple of years ago, B.J. Penn was on his way to being considered the greatest lightweight the sport of MMA has ever seen. Now, as he gets ready to fight in his second straight bout at 170 pounds, his days as a lightweight may be behind him forever.
Despite a 3-3 record overall at welterweight, as Penn gets ready to face Jon Fitch in the main event at UFC 127, the Hawaiian sounds like he’s done with cutting weight and making the move down to lightweight.
“When it comes to 155 pounds, I don’t even like cutting the weight to make that weight. It’s not a tough cut for me, I probably cut about three or four pounds on the day of the weigh-in, but 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,” he said recently.
Penn has stated on numerous occasions that he still looks at MMA as a fight, and not some athletic competition. He also doesn’t agree with many of the methods that a lot of fighters use to make weight, and then try to re-hydrate themselves for a fight 24 hours later.
“If we said let’s meet tomorrow at 12 o’clock to fight someone and your family honor is on the line, the first thing I wouldn’t do is stop drinking water and stop eating. I don’t see how that can help you and make you a stronger person,” Penn said.
“People I.V. and do all these things, and I never thought about playing those games and sticking needles in my arms.”
Weight cutting really has become a science in the mixed martial arts world. With wrestlers making up a big portion of the fighters transitioning into MMA, weight cutting is just a part of the sport.
While Penn points to the unhealthy side, several weight cutting gurus would point to the fact that there are right ways and wrong ways to shed pounds as weigh-in day approaches.
Former “Ultimate Fighter” competitor turned trainer Mike Dolce has worked with several top flight UFC fighters to get them on weight or help them cut down to a new weight class, and does so primarily with diet and not extreme measures. Still, Penn says, he’s not a fan of the methods used to make weight in this sport and he’s happy that he doesn’t have to change his lifestyle much before fighting at 170 pounds.
“I come from a whole different mindset. I believe you get as healthy as you can and you go fight the best guy possible,” Penn said.
“I feel that right now I’m at a great mindset and when we get to Australia we’re going to fight less than 24 hours after the weigh-in. I think the weigh-ins are around 4:30 and the show starts at 2 o’clock the next day, so I’d rather be in the position that I’m in because I don’t I.V., I don’t do things like that. I would rather be in the position to fight 20 hours later, me and Fitch are going to be standing in the ring looking at each other, and I’m going to be happy that I was drinking water and eating as much food as I could the whole time.”
When Penn has fought at welterweight before in fights against Georges St-Pierre and for his last fight against Matt Hughes, he’s come in well under the 170-pound limit, so he’s obviously still staying in shape, not ballooning up just because he can. He just prefers eating and drinking normally, without hitting the sauna to cut a few more pounds before weighing in.
With such a strong statement, could Penn’s time at lightweight be finished? Not so fast.
“I don’t think Dana would ever let that happen,” Penn joked when asked if he had shut the door on a return to 155 pounds.
If Penn is successful at UFC 127 against Fitch, UFC president Dana White has already said the winner would get the slot as the new No. 1 welterweight contender, so his weight class decision could already be made for him.