Penn says his return not a one-and-done deal
B.J. Penn insists he was content with his retirement from mixed martial arts when he watched the main event of UFC 180.
An interim UFC heavyweight title fight pitted 40-year-old Mark Hunt against 37-year old Fabricio Werdum.
A month shy of Penn’s 36th birthday, his mind began to shift back to the sport that made him famous more than a decade ago.
And here we are once again.
After three fights fell through in 2016, the now 38-year-old former two-division world champion will step into the Octagon for the 24th time in the main event of UFC Fight Night 103 on Sunday in Phoenix.
Penn (16-10-2, 12-9-2 UFC) will continue his career-long tradition of fighting only the best when he ends a 30-month layoff against promising featherweight
contender Yair Rodriguez (10-1), who is a perfect 5-0 in the UFC.
“I think they were the ones who wanted to fight us,” Penn said of the matchup with Rodriguez, ranked No. 10 at 145 pounds. “I don’t know, maybe they think I’m past my prime or whatever, but it’s all good.”
They wouldn’t be the only ones to think Penn, who is 1-5-1 in his past seven fights, is well past the level he was at when he held the UFC lightweight title some seven
His only win since losing the belt to Frankie Edgar in April 2010 is a knockout of 37-year-old Matt Hughes in November of that year.
His last three losses were all fights that went into the third round, and he absorbed a total of 453 strikes in those fights.
That hasn’t deterred Penn from getting back into the cage. Only four fighters alltime have logged more fight minutes in the UFC than Penn.
“I just love it, man. I miss the confrontation. I miss the struggle. I miss everything about it,” Penn said. “I really didn’t think I would come back after the last time. I saw Werdum and Hunt fight and one guy was 37 and one guy was 40.
“How could I not be in there?”
Penn hadn’t worked out in the gym since losing to Edgar again in July 2014, knowing if he did, it would lead him back to the UFC.
Once he decided to start training, he went to Albuquerque, N.M., to work with renowned trainer Greg Jackson, who cornered Georges StPierre in 2009 when Penn lost and then filed a complaint against St-Pierre and Jackson for the illegal application of Vaseline during the bout.
The two patched up their difference and Jackson vouched for Penn, telling the UFC his comeback attempt was legit.
The UFC gave him another shot, scheduling fights against Dennis Siver, Cole Miller and Ricardo Lamas, which all fell through.
Rodriguez is more than a 4-to-1 favorite in the fight, but Penn insists this isn’t a one-time deal.
He has visions of getting back to the top of a division one more time.
“I’m getting older and I want to try to see what this year holds for me,” Penn said. “We’re coming on (television) right after the NFC (playoff) game and so this is kind of like a Super Bowl year for me.
“I want to go win our Super Bowl this year.”
B.J. Penn: Has record of 1-5-1 in his last seven fights