Exclusive: BJ Penn Discusses Rory MacDonald, UFC on Fox 5, Matt Hughes, VADA and His Career
We are less than three weeks away from the return of “The Prodigy” as former two-division UFC champion BJ Penn will fight Rory MacDonald at UFC n Fox 5 in Seattle. It’s being billed as the old guard vs. the new guard, the grizzled veteran against the hot shot up and comer. Whatever you want to call it, these two are going to put on one hell of a show on December 8th.
Penn doesn’t do many interviews, but we were lucky enough to have him join us on the radio show that bears his name. Interestingly enough one of BJ’s former adversaries, Matt Hughes preceded Penn and the two are now not only friends, but they have trained with one another on a few occasions. It’s an odd pairing, but after hearing BJ explain it to us it made perfect sense. He told us about Hughes the man not Hughes the fighter.
“When I was with Matt at his home we would train in the morning after he had already lifted weights,” Penn told BJPenn.Com Radio “He would drop us off at his house and we’d hang out in the basement in the air conditioning eating food. Matt would then go and work on his farm all day, come home and spar with us at night. He would then make all of us dinner; I have to tell you that man is a hard worker.”
“Matt is a real nice guy, but he has a dry sense of humor and people don’t know when he’s joking or not, he thinks you’re supposed to get it. With that being said he’s always been a nice guy and I think the rivalry started because I was a young kid running my mouth. As I got older and after having an opportunity to hang out with Matt, I realized within five or ten minutes that he’s a good guy.”
Penn is working hard in preparation for his showdown with MacDonald. 13 months will have passed since BJ last stepped foot in the Octagon and he is certainly looking forward to fighting again. Penn is pulling out all the stops and calling on some top fighters to help him prepare for this bout.
“Training is coming along, I couldn’t be happier with how everything is going,” said Penn. “I’m in the gym trying to put in my time and I’ve used the last few months to get into shape. I think it was a blessing that the fight got pushed back (from UFC 152). I’ve had more time to train and I’ve been able to work out more. We’re giving it an honest effort and we’ll see how everything works out.”
“Right now Jay Hieron, Pat Healy and Tarec Saffedine are here in Hawaii. We’ve been doing some sparring and we’ve got a lot more guys coming down. There are some wrestlers who will be helping me out with this camp as well. Over the next four weeks we’re going to keep rolling in more sparring partners.”
The match-up of Penn and MacDonald is an interesting one. On one hand you have Penn, a veteran who has won titles in two different weight classes and fought a who’s who of the best mixed martial artists ever. On the other hand you have a young, hungry, 23-year-old Canadian who everyone has pegged for greatness. Penn has the experience and MacDonald has youth and when they meet the potential for greatness is very high. It doesn’t hurt that Rory is the protege of Georges St. Pierre, one of BJ’s greatest rivals.
“I wanted to have another match against Tri-Star and head coach Firas Zahabi and it’s not being done because of any bad blood,” admitted Penn. “I feel like I have more to show them and without a doubt Rory has a lot of hype surrounding him. I can see why, he’s done great so far. He’s in great condition, he can kick, punch, he can wrestle and he knows how to fight on the ground. Everyone is saying he’s going to be one of the top guys and those are the guys I like to fight. It works out two ways for me; I get to face a really good opponent and I get to compete against Firas again.”
The UFC on Fox 5 card is stacked from top to bottom. The main event will feature two fighters Penn is very familiar with in UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson and his challenger Nate Diaz. Everyone is expecting this fight to contend for fight of the night and quite possibly fight of the year including BJ. We had Henderson on the show a few weeks ago and he told us it was always a dream of his to compete on the same card as Penn. Hearing that made Penn very happy and appreciative.
“That is going to be such a good fight, I don’t even know how to call it,” Penn offered. “I know Benson personally and I’ve known Nate for awhile and I think they are the two best lightweights in the world. They are going to step inside the cage and we’ll have to wait to find out what happens.”
“As I travel through my career it’s been so amazing and I don’t even know what to expect. It’s almost like you don’t deserve that credit because you’re never giving up the trying part. You forget about all of your accomplishments, you never remember what you’ve done, you’ve forget about it. It’s amazing to hear a guy like Benson Henderson say those things. He was a sparring partner for my fight with Diego Sanchez and as I got in a few workouts with him I knew he was going to go far. I knew it immediately and it’s amazing how life is.”
Both Penn and MacDonald have agreed to undergo VADA testing in the weeks leading up to their fight. This is a huge step in the right direction for the sport and will certainly squash any rumors of anyone using performance enhancing drugs.
“One thing about VADA is they know how to catch you off guard,” Penn stated. “I heard a knock at the door and thought it was a friend of mine. I looked outside and they informed me they were from VADA. I like how they do things; they know how to catch someone. It’s really good for the sport, but the main reason I’m doing it is to take care of my safety and make sure this is a clean fight.”