Penn had done several memorable things up to that point in his career, and after suffering a loss to Nick Diaz, he walked away from the sport for several months.
But as a spectator, “The Prodigy” watched the sport and heard people talk about who the greatest fighters were. His name wasn’t mentioned, and this didn’t sit well with the former two-division UFC champion. So he called his old boss, the UFC president.
“I texted Dana [White] a couple months ago and I said ‘Dana, I watch all these interviews and all these people talking. No one says my name when they talk about the greatest fighters anymore.’ And I really don’t like that, it really bothers me,” Penn said on a media conference call on Tuesday.
This began to light a fire under Penn’s rear end. The call to return to the sport — or fighting, as Penn referred to it — came and grabbed the fighter’s attention.
The only thing that remained was coming back and establishing himself against the right opponent. Rory MacDonald is that opponent.
The two were supposed to fight at UFC 152, but MacDonald had to withdraw from the fight after sustaining a massive cut on his head in training. Most would says “bummer,” but not Penn. He looked at this as an opportunity to prepare himself much more and get in even better shape for someone he’s heard people say will be a champion one day.
“I think the best thing for me was the fight getting postponed and pushed back,” he said. “I started this training camp at probably 40 percent body fat. I was just going to get in shape a little, go in there and give it my best effort. But as things started going on, Rory ended up pulling out 10 weeks before the last fight, and he was saying that … I look fat and a bunch of different things, [and] he’ll probably end up killing me in the ring. That really lit a fire under my butt, and I’m down under 10 percent now. I’m ready to go. I’m expecting the best B.J. Penn I’ve ever seen.”
The two will finally meet at UFC on FOX 5 on Dec. 8, in Seattle, and Penn said he’s in better shape than he’s been in a while. The test, according to the UFC president, will be a tough one for the young and up-and-coming MacDonald. White said The Prodigy is the type to go through all rounds of a fight and not give up any fashion.
“You’re not going in there and running over B.J.,” White said on Tuesday. “He doesn’t cut, he’s never been knocked out.
“I think B.J.’s going to be a big test for him.”
Penn will be the test, and MacDonald will be the young welterweight looking to prove he belongs among the 170-pound elite. And as UFC fans watch one of the world’s fastest growing sports on the FOX Network, Penn will not recognize it as that.
It’s simply a fight to show he’s one of the greatest ever to do it.
“I’m not a great athlete that can play any sport. But one thing I could always do is I could always fight back,” Penn said. “This has always been a fight for me.”