September 25, 2006

by Ken Pishna, MMAWeekly.com
Following his failed attempt in seizing Matt Hughes’ welterweight title, BJ Penn gave an exclusive interview to his own web site, BJPenn.com. He discussed the fight in detail, the injury he suffered and said that he felt Hughes deserved the victory.

Penn was leading the action through the first two rounds, though Hughes’ stand-up game looked good, and felt confident in the way the fight was going. “I felt good, I was happy that I was defending Matt’s takedowns,” said Penn. “I could see that Matt improved his standup… He was dodging my punches well and he had a good jab.”

Part way through the second round, Hughes finally got the takedown that Penn had defended so well to that point. He moved Penn over to the fence, but Penn had trained for this circumstance. “I was thinking about this position a lot and I was ready,” he stated. “When he went for a big elbow, he missed and I capitalized and started going for his back.”

Despite moving to the offensive, this is when things started going bad for Penn. “At this moment, when I was making the turn towards his back, I felt my ribs separate on my right side. Although I didn’t know the severity of the situation, I was thinking I have to finish him now because I knew something was wrong.” Penn continued, “Matt defended himself well and got through the round. When I got up to walk to my corner, I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t want to talk about it with my corner. I wanted to be the champ. I wanted to keep fighting.”

Most fighters would use a situation like this as an excuse, an easy way to explain the loss, and they would be justified. Not BJ Penn.

“I remember standing up out of the corner in pain. But I was thinking, ‘Earn your title. This is what you have to do to get your belt back, fight through the pain.’ I knew the opportunity I had with getting this fight, especially after losing my last fight,” he said.

“Big John gave me plenty of time. I practiced defending against that position with flexibility, but I had none with my core. Congratulations to Matt, he is a great fighter. It’s not his fault that that happened. He fought like the champion he is. He deserved the victory,” said a humbled Penn.

It will be interesting to see which direction things go from here. But with Penn having won their first meeting, and the obvious argument of the injury, it would be surprising if there weren’t a Penn vs. Hughes 3 somewhere in the future.