With just over two weeks to go until veteran, two-weight UFC champion BJ Penn returns to the Octagon against a much hyped Rory MacDonald. The Hilo native discussed with BJPenn.com Radio that he can’t wait for another chance to prove himself against Firas Zahabi and one of his fighters.
Penn and Zahabi have a long-standing grudge of sorts, going back to Penn’s unsuccessful UFC welterweight title match against Georges St-Pierre at UFC 94 in January 2009.
This time the talk is more respectful, with Penn saying it’s not out of bad blood, but more a chance for him to prove himself against one of Firas’ fighters again.
“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,” Penn told his radio show. “I feel 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.”
This newly affable pre-fight BJ Penn also had kind words to say about Benson Henderson, who headlines this UFC on FOX card, after the UFC lightweight champion admitted it’s always been a dream of his share a card with the legendary Penn.
“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,” Penn mused. “You forget about all of your accomplishments, you never remember what you’ve done, you have to 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.”
What’s clear from these comments, if Penn’s time off from fighting seems to have given the legendary fighter some clarity and perspective, but come fight week, expect to see the old BJ back.
BJ Penn faces Rory MacDonald at UFC on FOX on Saturday, Dec. 8th. Other fights on the card include UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson and Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown.