Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
SEATTLE -- Rory MacDonald stared straight ahead, his delivery startlingly cold.
"I think (B.J. Penn) is fighting for the wrong reasons, and it's going to get him hurt," he said bluntly. The follow-up question was too obvious, he knew he left it out there. Why exactly is Penn fighting for the wrong reasons? The answer was simple.
"Because I'm fighting to hurt him. I'm not fighting for someone's opinion."
MacDonald went on to explain his point. "He's fighting for status, something that isn't real. People's opinions, he wants to change people's opinions. Maybe he doesn't realize that those things are not real.
"Opinions are valid. But the status of someone, someone places a status over your head, like B.J. being a legend. Now that they're not saying it, he's upset about it. Maybe he should've learned that it's fickle."
MacDonald's words are completely rational, even if they don't sound like the words of a 23-year-old "next big thing" are expected to sound. But then again, most 23 year olds wouldn't be in line to fight Penn in first place, especially after the old-school champ retired last October.
Penn fully admits, languishing on the sidelines while the public marginalized his career eventually just became too much to take.
"After you put over ten years into something, I want to be remembered for it. Doesn't everybody?" Penn replied in bright spirits. "It's good. Sticks and stones.
"[Rory] is like me before. That's what I would say. I would say exactly what he said. ‘Oh, he's fighting to be remembered, I'm fighting to hurt him.' That sounds like B.J. Penn a couple years ago.
"I think that he thinks that I'm 45 years old, not 33 years old," Penn continued. "I don't know who told him that I'm 50. I don't know what's going on."
Penn's personal motivations may be his own, but there's no question the former two-division champion, who jovially owned the room during Wedesday's UFC on FOX 5 open workouts, is still adored by the public. He sees himself in an entirely different light than the fighter who was battered by Nick Diaz last year. And while he won't commit to this comeback fight being anything more than a one-off, his words carry an optimism that lends themselves toward another shot at welterweight glory, but only if the pieces can come together properly.
"I'm almost 34 now, and I don't see the point in eating chicken salad and training six hours off of that," he explained. "I always thought, and I always knew, if I prepared myself properly at 170 pounds that I could do well at 170 pounds. I've never walked into the ring and had a guy just wipe me right out. It's never, ever happened. And so if I do it properly, I really feel like I could be a force in the division."
Penn's renewed sense of motivation is exactly why he now brushes off MacDonald's threats. Penn believes his young opponent is underestimating his chances on Saturday, and as the wily veteran so aptly puts it, "I love every second of it."
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