The last time he competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), he was crowned the UFC Welterweight Champion after defeating Matt Hughes by Rear Naked Choke at UFC 46: ‘Super Natural.’
It will be more than two years since that night when BJ Penn returns to the octagon in March. Penn sat down with MMAWeekly over the weekend in Hawaii and discussed his preparation for the upcoming UFC 58 bout against Georges ‘Rush’ St. Pierre, Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie, and gave an update on his legal situation.
MMAWeekly: BJ, first of all, when I ran into you and first saw you, your weight looked great. You’re already down. What are you weighing right now? You’re like 178?
BJ Penn: Yep, 178-179. I’m not playing around. I’m not playing around.
MMAWeekly: You don’t fight until March?
Penn: March 4th, so I’ve got about a month a week, or a month and two weeks.
MMAWeekly: You’re full-blown into it already?
Penn: Hell yea. This whole UFC thing has really got me excited. I’m really pumped up. I’m coming back. I’m going to get my belt, and from there, we’ll see what happens.
MMAWeekly: I know you’ve got to feel good about that because I know a lot of people were probably questioning can you make that weight?
Penn: I honestly think I can make 160. I believe I can do it pretty easily actually. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens. I had to come down from 195, so I already lost fricken a lot of weight.
MMAWeekly: Or fat.
Penn: [laughs] Yea. Some people said, don’t ever fight looking like that again. And some people said, don’t ever even leave the house looking like that again. [laughs]
MMAWeekly: Talk about your training. Who have you been training with?
Penn: I’ve just been getting into shape and stuff. Allan came down, and we trained with Allan Goes. Koscheck, I’m going to be training with him; Matt Lindland, and just whatever strikers around, boxers around town, and kickboxing and stuff.
MMAWeekly: When you train for a guy like Georges St. Pierre, who is so diverse, how important is it for you to bring in lots of different guys to kind of simulate what he’s going to be like?
Penn: It’s way easier to train for a guy like St. Pierre because he’s good at everything, so just don’t leave anything out. You don’t have to make a specific game plan like this, this or this. He’s always going to do every single one, so just prepare and get ready for it.
MMAWeekly: The announcement of your return was made at the same time as Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock as this season’s TUF coaches. Will you be making an appearance on The Ultimate Fighter 3?
Penn: I don’t know. We’ll see what the UFC has planned for me. I’m sure if I win my fights I’ll be somewhere around there. I just depends. That’s up to me probably. Ultimate Fighter 3, Ortiz and Shamrock, we’ll see. Maybe they’ll have some co-coaches or something.
MMAWeekly: BJ, let me ask you, did it fire you up to see Matt Hughes come out and Royce Gracie is getting the shot at Matt Hughes. I know Georges St. Pierre is not happy. What do you think about it?
Penn: I’m happy. I’m happy to see that fight go down. I don’t know why people wouldn’t be happy. It’s going to be good. Matt always makes big mistakes when he goes against a really good Jiu-Jitsu guy. I know Royce is behind the times, but Matt makes big mistakes. I would definitely feel that my favor is with Matt to win the fight, but Royce, you never know what he could do I guess. He’s either going to get slaughtered, or he’ll catch Matt; one or the other. It’s going to be exciting. I’m excited because I get to fight either one of those two winners.
MMAWeekly: The fight with St. Pierre, how do you see this fight going?
Penn: My way.
MMAWeekly: What do you anticipate? Is it a stand up fight? Is it a ground fight? What do you see?
Penn: Honestly, everything. You’ve seen St. Pierre fight. Can you really say what he’s going to come out? He’s going to try to impose his will, and my will is going to be imposed on him. It’s going to be good. That’s why we have the fight because I can’t sit here and tell you about it. We’re just going to have to wait and see.
MMAWeekly: Talk about your legal situation (with the Honolulu Police incident), what’s going on with that? Is that going to affect your fight?
Penn: I was in court yesterday. The case got pushed back to August, so I can take that off my mind right now and put that on the back burner for the moment and take care of my business. Get back, and worry about that after the fight.
MMAWeekly: How much does that concern you about what’s going on? Is it tough for you to stay focused when there is stuff like that hanging?
Penn: I think any fighter, it’s easy to focus for a fight, but it’s a serious thing that’s going on. I mean, I’d be crazy to say I’m not thinking about it. You know what I mean? There’s nothing I can do but wait around and see what happens.
MMAWeekly: BJ Penn always good to talk with you and we look forward to a good fight on March 4th
Penn: It’s going to be a great fight. Thank you.