Windsor Star

Penn, Hughes ready to renew rivalry

Ex-champions have respect for each other

- BOB DUFF

The relationsh­ip between UFC fighters B.J. Penn and Matt Hughes isn’t typical of what you’d expect from two people about to do battle in the octagon.

Scheduled to contest a lightweigh­t bout on tonight’s UFC 123 card at the Palace of Auburn Hills (7 p.m., pay per view US$44.99), the two former world champions expressed nothing but respect and fondness for each other on the eve of their fight.

“I like Matt Hughes, he’s all right,” said Penn, 31.

“Matt Hughes has always been one of my idols. He’s still an idol of mine. When he fights, I always watch. And after our fight Saturday, whichever way it goes down, he’s still going to be an idol of mine.”

Hughes allowed that there was an equal admiration is his corner for Penn. “I like B.J.,” Hughes said. “I saw that his mom was here, and I always enjoy talking to her.”

The two have fought twice before. Penn defeated Hughes at UFC 46 on Jan. 31, 2004 with a rear naked choke hold at 2:04 of the first round to become UFC world welterweig­ht champion.

In their rematch at UFC 63 Sept. 23, 2006, Hughes regained the welterweig­ht crown by stopping Penn in the second round.

Hughes, 37, of Hillsboro, Ill., submitted Ricardo Almeida via choke hold at 3:15 of the first round of their bout at UFC 117 on Aug. 7.

He’s won his last three fights and is 46-7 lifetime in UFC action.

Penn, meanwhile, has dropped his last two fights.

The Kailua, Hawaii-born fighter lost his lightweigh­t crown to Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision April 4 at UFC 112, and was again decisioned unanimousl­y by Edgar in their rematch Aug. 28 at UFC 118.

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