For years, B.J. Penn has talked about the legacy he wants to create before he leaves the sport of MMA.
As he heads into his fight at UFC 127 against Jon Fitch, legacy doesn’t seem to be the biggest thing on Penn’s mind anymore. Nor do titles or even some of the mind games he’s been known to play with opponents before heading into a big fight. This B.J. Penn has only one focus, and that’s beating Jon Fitch.
It’s not necessarily a different Penn than fans have seen before, but to hear his demeanor before his last fight against Matt Hughes, and then before his upcoming fight with Fitch, the once brash Hawaiian has started to just talk about the fight before the fight and nothing else.
Gone are the days of Penn’s relentless goal to be the best in the world, he’s just back to the business of being a fighter. For his camp to prepare for Fitch, he even brought in an old adversary to help him get ready.
“Well, it came about, I was talking to Matt (Hughes’) boxing trainer, Matt Pena, and, you know, we’re talking back and forth, and he was kind of talking to me about Fitch and what he likes to do. I guess he’s kind of just studied Fitch over the years,” Penn said.
“I was talking to him. He was asking me if I wanted to come and meet up with him and talk to him and stuff, and after a while, I said, ‘You know what? Why don’t you give me Matt’s number? I think it’d be a good idea to have Matt come down and train with me.’ And he gave me Matt’s number. I texted Matt a few times, and I didn’t know what kind of response I was going to get, but Matt ended up, a few texts later, Matt ended up saying, ‘You know what? I’m in. I’m going to go make sure, I’ll fit you in my schedule,’ and sent me down his name and his daughter’s name, and they came down to train. And I had a great time training with Matt. It really upped my confidence.”
Penn and Hughes of course just sealed the deal on their trilogy of fights last November with Penn coming out on top after a quick knockout in the first round of their bout at UFC 123. Once again, however, even before that fight, Penn had moved on from old grudges and just got back to what made him great and that was loving to fight.
Penn has always looked at MMA as a fight, or a scrap as he calls it, and doesn’t look at it as an athletic competition as so many fighters believe it is today. Penn is a purist when it comes to looking at MMA as a fight, but he’s not against working with a former enemy to prepare him for the battle ahead.
In Matt Hughes, he trained with a fighter that could easily be called Jon Fitch 1.0. While Fitch may be at version 2.0 right now, it can’t hurt to have someone in camp that does many of the same things he does, especially because Fitch does them so well.
“Me and Matt had great workouts, him trying to push me on the fence, him trying to take me down. I definitely think that was the best training partner I could’ve had for the fight,” Penn commented.
“I know he isn’t exactly like Fitch as far as height and boxing and kickboxing goes, but on the one area where Fitch definitely pushes all his opponents, his grinding them out and pushing them on the fence and taking them down, Matt really pushed me in those areas. So I gained a lot of confidence working out with Matt.”
Heading into the fight, Penn sounds as confident as ever and while he’s alluded to possibly staying at 170 pounds in the future regardless of the outcome of this fight, and with a title shot on the line, he’s just ready to fight.
“I’m not even thinking about that. I’m not thinking about titles,” Penn said. “I’m just happy to fight an opponent of Jon Fitch’s level and Jon Fitch’s stature.”
A B.J. Penn truly just in there to scrap? That might be the most dangerous B.J. Penn ever.