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BJ Penn Considered Training With Hughes Before UFC 123 Fight Offer

DETROIT -- Today, BJ Penn looks at Matt Hughes as an obstacle on the way to rediscovering his mojo. Not long ago, Hughes might have been a tool to help him find it.

Shortly after a workout at the Detroit Athletic Club just 48 hours before his UFC 123 fight with Hughes, the former two-division champion revealed that in recent months, he thought about training with his former (and now current) rival.

"I had no clue we'd fight again," said Penn, who said he's walking around at 168 pounds about 24 hours before weigh-ins. "It's great to see he's doing well. He's someone I looked up to and Matt's back and looking great. I was planning on training with him before this whole thing but when I was offered it, I opted to take the fight."

After losing two straight fights, BJ Penn decided to shake things up. Most notably, Troy Mandaloniz became his head trainer, replacing Rudy Valentino in the role. And in his continued quest to learn and improve his all-around MMA game, it appears the idea to work with Hughes was a legitimate possibility.

Ironically, about one year ago, the careers of the two were in exact opposite spots. Penn (15-7-1) had steamrolled through Diego Sanchez in a lightweight title defense and many people believed he was the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. Meanwhile, some people were calling for Hughes to retire after losing three of four. Yet now Hughes is in the midst of a career rebirth while Penn is simply trying to get back into the win column.

The legendary Hawaiian said he'd always hoped that he and Hughes would get a chance to finish out their respectful rivalry and produce a winner once and for all, but believed that with every passing day, the possibility of it was fading.

"I kind of did give up on it," he said. "I always pictured us fighting in Aloha Stadium with 40,000 screaming fans. But then I didn't know what I'd do after I lost two fights to Frankie [Edgar]. When I got the call I got chicken skin; I was ecstatic. I went outside and screamed, 'It's happening!'"

Penn's last foray into welterweight waters didn't end well. In January 2009, he was defeated by Georges St. Pierre, who earned a TKO stoppage after Penn's corner would not let him come out for the fifth round.

While many wonder how a win or loss would effect Penn's place in the history books, Penn said that long view is something he no longer concerns himself with.

"I think every fight I'll always be surrounded by the legacy question," he said. "I kind of gave up on the legacy thing for now. I just want to fight as much as I can. I'm 31. Some people say I'm young, some say I'm getting older. I just want to enjoy it and fight as much as I can."

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