Will the Real BJ Penn Please Stand Up?
Penn completes intense training camp, ready for tie-breaker against Matt Hughes in welter-weight bout this Saturday at UFC 123
Like we say here in Hawaii, right now former UFC Light-heavyweight champion, BJ Penn of Hilo, and UFC veteran & Hall of Famer Matt Hughes are “tie-tie.”
The last time they faced each other in the ring was four years ago when Hughes recaptured the UFC welter-weight belt that Penn stole from him two years prior.
But come Saturday, during the co-main event at the Palace of Auburn Hill in Detroit, during UFC 123 “Rampage vs Machida”, Penn plans on breaking the tie, in what industry insiders are referring to as the final installment of the Penn vs. Hughes trilogy.
“Like (UFC President) Dana White said, this is a fight that motivates you to get up for,” said Penn on Saturday at the UFC 123 press conference. “Matt Hughes has always been one of my idols, an after the fight he’ll still be one of my idols, but I need a victory. Though I’m not putting any weird pressure on myself, I know it’s really important to perform well. I’m 31(years old). I’m going to be in this sport for a long time.”
No doubt the bout has the potential to be another classic showdown of two of the UFC’s most talented and decorated athletes, but Penn fans, not just in Hawaii, but around the world, are wondering if BJ Penn–arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the world–will show up mentally and physically prepared to take on Hughes.
Penn’s head trainer, Troy Mandaloniz, who runs I & I gym in , Maui with UFC Middleweight Kendall Grove, said that Penn has tapped back in to his warrior spirit and is at the top of his game.
“He knew camp was going to be hard. We brought in a lot of top notch wrestlers for him to spar with because that’s Hughes strong point,” said Mandaloniz. “I think the greatest strength that he has going int this fight is that he’s not afraid of Hughes one bit, and I really don’t think that Matt can say the same. That’s an important aspect because the biggest challenge BJ has is himself.
“He’s healthy. He said he didn’t know he’d feel so ready for this fight, but he absolutely is. He’s super excited, walking tall and cracking jokes. He’s absolutely prepared for this fight. I can’t wait to see a ‘ready’ BJ go in the there and fight.”
Penn brought the UFC Light-heavyweight title home to Hawaii in 2008 and successfully defended it five times before losing it to Frankie Edgar back in April in an upset split decision. Penn was given a rematch in August, but Edgar protected his title, this time dominantly.
On the flip side, though 36-years old and rumored to be past his prime, Hughes is coming into the bout off a three-fight winning streak.
Both fighters have suffered just seven losses in their MMA careers. Hughes enters the fight with a record of 45-7-0. Penn’s record is 15-7-1.
Come Saturday, only one will walk out of the Octagon having broken the tie.
“I’m gonna come out guns blazing, with everything I got,” said Penn.
UFC commentator, Joe Rogan summed it up in a simple statement. “An in shape, motivated BJ Penn is a bad dude.”
That’s one thing that no one–fan, or not–can argue.
Tomorrow-From Light-weight to welter-weight: Will the size difference help or hinder Penn in his bought against Hughes on Saturday at UFC 123?