"I'm in the best shape of my life".
We've all herd it before, then they go on and tell you what they are doing now that they didn't do before and why this will make the difference. Every time a fighter mentions this I always think to myself "that's so cliché". And for me there's a face that always works its way into my mind to go along with it... B.J Penn. That's not a bad thing (sort of)
B.J Penn is known for coming into fights "unprepared" and "out of shape". Even when Penn won the UFC lightweight Title by choking out Joe Stevenson on January 19, 2008 at UFC 80 or when he knocked out Sean Sherk at UFC 84 the thought was still in the back of my mind. When would Penn lose the motivation? UFC 94 he the potential to make history as Penn would try to be the only man to hold two belts in the UFC simultaneously. It didn't happen, not by a long shot. Penn was out worked against the fence which tired the Hawaiian out. That's when I thought to myself, "Ok, that was a fun ride but now its over"
UFC 101 Penn returns to defend his title against a game Kenny Florian. "I'm motivated and in the best shape of my life" line was passed around interview to interview. "Yea right" I would think to myself but as it is with all B.J Penn fights.... I want to believe it. I want to see the "old" Prodigy. I want to see if he's really in as good as shape as he always says he's in. Sometimes he's right, sometimes he's wrong, but what's exciting is I want to see what happens and how it happens. There's something about the way he sells the fight and the lead up to it that always makes me a believer all over again.
To say B.J is my favorite fighter wouldn't be entirely correct but not so farfetched either. He's one of the fighters that got me hooked to MMA when I was younger. But unlike the other fighters that I enjoyed watching in the early days (Randy Courture, Chuck Liddle, Matt Hughs just to name a few) B.J is still around. Its kind of hard to believe that his first professional fight was in the UFC and was way back at UFC 31. He's had his ups and downs like most fighters but when B.J has his ups, he looked really good (knocking out Caol Uno in 11 seconds and Matt Hughs in 21 seconds) and when he's down he's looked really bad (Rory MacDonald and Nick Diaz come to mind). Those are great examples because when he fought Caol and Matt he did pretty much what he said he would do and in the Rory and Diaz fights he did the opposite of what he said he was going to do and what kind of shape he was in. (it was bad).
Another "cliché" you always hear around fighting is "ill fight you anyplace anytime" and for the most part B.J Penn lived up to this. Not only is he making his featherweight debut during this coming summer he has also fought at lightweight (which he's know most for winning a championship and becoming only the second fighter to hold belts in 2 divisions) welterweight ( winning his first championship) middleweight ( when he fought for K1) and a open weight contest in which he fought Lyoto Machida in which he weighed in at 191 (also K1). Its insane to think that at all these weights he's fought at, sure he didn't win them all but he's never been finished due to strikes and or has never been submitted. Yeah in the record books it will go down in history he lost by way of TKO to Matt Hughs in there rematch at UFC 63 because his hands were pinned in a very nice crucifix and who could forget the clinic that GSP put on in there rematch at UFC 94 (which his corner through in the towel). But like I said, there's been ups and downs. But that's always part of the excitement for me. He disappoints me every time he says he's going to do this or that and when he doesn't I am disappointed to the point where I never want to see another fight of his again. Or until his next fight comes around and he starts talking about how he changed this and trained with them. And I believe it... sucker. Then he goes and dominates another opponent and I think to my self "why did I ever doubt him".... sucker. I know this but I cant help getting excited for a B.J Penn fight.
I have seen hundreds of fighters walk out and few can hold a candle to Penn's walkout. I have never seen one live and probably never will but it would be on my bucket list if I had one. As soon as the mix of Hawaii 78 and E Ala E by Israel "Bradda IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole comes on and he's talking and hitting himself I get instant goose bumps.
One thing that will never tarnish is the legacy he has built for himself. When you are given the nick name "The Prodigy" there's a lot of pressure to go along with it I imagine and that's a lot to live up to and B.J did just that. He has already been promised a spot in the UFC Hall Of Fame and in the words of Dana White "He s a pioneer for the lightweight division, at a time when many believed that there couldn't be any stars at 155 pounds." He has wrote books and has his own gym and one named after him in his honor by the UFC in Honolulu HI.
So whatever the reason from being conditioned/prepared, to the pre-fight smack talk, to the walkout and the unpredictability that goes with fighting but especially a Penn fight, love him or hate him, there's going to be excitement and buzz around the legendary future Hall of Famer B.J Penn. I'm excited just thinking about it! Here we go again!