by Jeff Cain
Arguments can be made about who is the biggest name in Mixed Martial Arts for a handful of fighters. There will of course always be those names like Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock brought up by those nostalgic MMA fans, but what about today? Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell, Rich Franklin, Matt Hughes, all are certainly front runners, but there’s as much buzz surrounding the name BJ Penn as any fighter in the world. Penn recently spoke with MMAWeekly about a multitude of topics. The following is a recap of what BJ had to say. To hear the interview in it’s entirely, click on the radio archive.
BJ Penn gets set to take on Renzo Gracie July 29th, in Hawaii. With the last name of Gracie, it can pretty much just be assumed that Renzo has excellent skill on the ground. BJ’s no novice to the ground game either, and was asked who had the better ground game between the two. Penn responded, “You know what? We’re going to find out on July 29th…I’m sure he’s good on the ground. When it comes to stuff like that, I really don’t say equal or whatever, this and that. I’d probably just say different. You know?” BJ added, “I think I’m better in all areas of course. You know?”
Further commenting on his opponent, Renzo Gracie, Penn said, “I’ve never trained with Renzo before. I really don’t know that much about Renzo really at all. I think I’ve only seen him, I’ve only met him one time.” He continued, “I think for this fight though, I think this is going to one of the best Renzos that we’ve seen because he took the year and six months off for whatever it was, and whenever you take time…I took a year off before the Gomi fight, and I came back, and that was one of the best ever…really hungry, so even though he’s older at 38 years old I think I can see him thinking you know what this is a fight I can prepare for. I don’t know how much he’s been preparing for his last couple of fights, but I know his record wasn’t too hot, or whatever and this and that…I think for this fight, I think Renzo’s going to get ready. He’s going to come in shape, and he’s going to come thinking he can win.”
Asked how he feels the fight will play out, Penn commented, “Of course like any fighter, I’ll take what comes, but I really wouldn’t mind submitting him, catching him in something. I’m just going to put the pressure. The heat is on as soon as the bell rings…I’m really going to try to finish the fight. This is a fight where I have to make an exclamation. This is a fight where I really show off my skills, and do this and that, and really do something. You know as being a fighter it’s not just winning. It’s how you win, and I’m really going to go out there, and put on a good show, and be hard nosed, nose to the grindstone, and really put the pressure and finish him.”
“Iron” Mike Tyson will be in attendance at the July 19th K-1/ROTR event watching the Penn and Gracie bout. BJ was asked about the possibility of actually fighting Mike Tyson and how the fight may play out. BJ replied, “That would be awesome if I could get a fight with a guy like Mike Tyson. If you want to get involved with this game you don’t want to run into me. I mean that would be awesome. You know? It would just be awesome for the sport, get more exposure, and everybody involved. You know? Get all those fans watching.”
When questioned about how a fight between he and Tyson would unfold, BJ said, “I think I’d just put him down, and it would be done from there.” Penn went on to say, “The whole theory of fighting is when you get the guy off his feet he can’t knock you out anymore. Why would it change? Why would Mike Tyson be able to knock someone out off his back? I know that he’d be able to punch hard, and it would be irritating, probably leave some knots in your head, but I don’t think that he would still have the same power as he would if he was on his feet.”
“He’s going to go down. He’s going to turn his back. He’s going to put his hands on the ground to stand up. I’m going to jump on his back, and I’m going to choke him. That’s what it will look like.” Predicted Penn.
Discussion changed from the fight with Renzo, and Mike Tyson, to BJ’s fighting future. Could we see him back in the UFC? What about the Pride 160lb. tournament? About fighting in Pride, BJ said, “I’m locked into K-1. I don’t think I’ll be fighting in Pride for the next couple of years…I think K-1 and Pride’s relationship is like me and the UFC. [laughs]”
Penn’s K-1 contract at the moment is a fight to fight deal. He was asked if there was any scenario that would allow him to fight in Pride. He commented, “I have such a good relationship with K-1 now, and everything is working fine. The only place I could fight in right now that I had written into my last contract, and that I’ll have written in to this one is that I can fight in the UFC…I always have that in my contract, my K-1 contract, that it be open. They don’t mind. I can fight in the UFC too. Actually I kind of demanded that they put that in because I was still trying to fight in the UFC at the same time. I probably wouldn’t be fighting in Pride. If they asked I’d think about it…but if it wasn’t right on the business side of it then I’ll probably stay with K-1.”
What about returning to the UFC? BJ still has a pending lawsuit with the UFC, and stated, “I think we’ve been in talks now with their lawyers and our lawyers, and things are starting to look up, and I guess we’ve got some kind of negotiations towards the angle of settling, so we’ll see how everything pans out…It’s a possibility. I wouldn’t count it out.”
On the topic of current UFC Welterweight Champion, Matt Hughes, BJ said, “I’d fight Hughes anytime. I’d fight him again. I want to fight Hughes. He’s got something that belongs to me. He’s got something that belongs to the people in the state of Hawaii, and that’s my UFC championship. I’ll fight him anytime. I don’t know what the possibilities is of it, but I’m sure we’ll fight before both of our careers are done.”
Jeremy Horn was another name mentioned that Penn would like to fight. “I was thinking about putting this fight together with Jeremy Horn maybe at 185, and I’d like to fight Hughes again…There’s Royce Gracie out there. I think it’s two million to have him fight or something, a million dollars. Ken Shamrock was telling us it was 300,000 dollars to fight him.”
That’s right. BJ Penn tried to put together a fight with Ken Shamrock. Commenting on it, BJ said, “We tried to put that fight together before this Renzo Gracie fight. We called him, this and that. We put numbers together, this and that, and he said he’d do it for 230 or something, so I guess they called him, and they told him what about 200 flat, and he said 300, so I don’t know if he wanted to fight or what was the deal…and then the whole fight got put together with Renzo, this and that, so that’s kind of how it all took place.”
July 29th, BJ Penn fights Renzo Gracie. After that his future remains wide open. Fighting in Pride seems to be eliminated from the equation, but the UFC doesn’t. A rematch with Matt Hughes, a fight with Jeremy Horn, BJ Penn’s future could contain some amazing things. Renzo Gracie may have something to say about that though.