by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Keeping up with his new attitude of training and work ethic, B.J. Penn didn’t take much time to get back in the gym and start preparing for his first title defense as lightweight champion against Sean Sherk and the Hawaiian legend still has much to say about the former titleholder who he faces in May.
Showing a dominant and aggressive style throughout his win over Joe Stevenson in January, Penn is already involved in a full training camp to prepare for the fight with Sherk, which is still more than three months away.
“I took a week off, and then I came back and I trained for a week, and then I trained half of last week, and now I’m back in the gym and I’m just training full speed,” said Penn in an exclusive interview with MMAWeekly Radio. “I’m going to go in there and show this man of cardio what cardio really is.”
His fire and energy have sparked a war of words with the former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion that seems to have turned this battle personal, but Penn insists it’s just business to him.
“For me, honestly, it’s not personal at all,” he stated. “The man was cheating. I called him a cheater; then he got all personal. So I think all the personal stuff is on him. He said this is the first time a fight’s personal and this and that and whatever. I couldn’t care less. I’m just going to go kick his ass.”
Penn has stayed strong on his statements about Sherk’s suspension following his fight with Hermes Franca in July 2007, and still doesn’t back down with the upcoming bout.
“How can you sit around saying you’re the champ, say the other guy’s the fake champ, and you got busted for (steroids)? We knew he was doing ‘roids the whole time, and all this stuff, and about it’s nothing personal, he went and made it all personal. I was calling a spade, a spade.”
It is Sherk’s conviction by the California State Athletic Commission for a positive test following last year’s fight that has spurned the new champion to speak out about any steroid user in mixed martial arts.
“Everybody has questioned my heart, questioned my training ethics, this and that, but I never did something as cowardly as to take any sports enhancement drug,” Penn said. “That’s one thing no one can ever say about me, you know? That I was a coward and took sports enhancement drugs, because I was afraid I was going to get my ass kicked in front of millions of people. So anybody out there who said I never had no heart, at least I wasn’t a coward.”
Penn states that he’s never been tempted by the world of performance enhancing drugs, and believes it’s the type of person in the sport of MMA that has transitioned to the philosophy of cheating and taking the short cut to success by taking drugs.
“To me in this sport, it’s fighting, it’s mixed martial arts, and I feel there’s too many athletes and not enough fighters,” commented Penn. “I think these people going in taking these sports enhancement drugs, they’re not real fighters, they’re athletes. I’m a fighter. I’m a real fighter. That’s all I did my whole life.
“I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, Sean Sherk is doing something illegal!’ I could care less about that. The guy was cheating, trying to steal somebody else’s dream, and that’s where it’s just a joke.”
The part that steroids have played in MMA has been seen by the multitude of suspensions handed down over the years, and Penn is specifically concerned about the other problems that may be happening beyond just taking the performance enhancement drugs.
“It does play a huge factor because they’re cheating and they’re getting more training time, and they’re stronger, but I don’t think that they’re just using steroids is the thing,” he said. “They’re probably pulling their blood out of a refrigerator right before the fight, blood doping, doing all these other things.”
Regardless of Penn’s take on steroids or Sherk, he still recognizes his opponent as a tough challenge and one he’s looking very forward to.
“Sean’s a great fighter. He’s done a lot of great things in the past. I’ll never dispute that, and it will be a great win, whether he’s on steroids or not. It’s a great win to beat Sean Sherk. It’s going to be sweet beating Sean Sherk on May 24.”