If you’re a tennis pro, Roger Federer is the guy you want to play against. If it’s chess, then Garry Kasparov is the ultimate test. If you are an MMA fi ghter at 155 lbs., and you want to fi ght a legend, then BJ Penn is your man. Every sport has its great players, but there are a just a few who are regarded as legends. BJ Penn will go down in history as one of the best lightweight fi ghters ever. He was truly one of the fi rst fi ghters in our sport who could really be a threat to you anywhere. He can out-wrestle you, knock you out, choke you out, and then take your blood. He is a puzzle that should be approached with great caution. This is what excites me about my upcoming fi ght on August 8th at UFC 101.
I got into this sport for the challenge. Since I was a kid, I used to dream about learning the martial arts and ultimately becoming a master. I would see myself traveling the world and exchanging techniques with various teachers high up in the mountains, most likely in Asia somewhere. I would be the roaming student, going from place to place in search of the best techniques, most likely testing myself along the way against other great martial artists who had heard about my reputation. Sound like a kung-fu movie? It probably was, but it was a movie that I wanted to live. I knew that training my body and mind would eventually bring me peace somehow. I knew this at a very young age. I’ll tell you, though, it was hard for me to believe this 100 percent, as I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Boston with no idea how I would be able to pull this off. Not really knowing how to get to Asia at the age of ten, I did other things to occupy my time. I practiced fi ghting with my brothers and friends. I went into the woods by myself, trying to get lost and fi nd my way back home. Maybe on the way back I would have to battle a cougar or bear. Sadly, there were no cougars or bears even remotely close to where I lived. I guess you could say that I had an active imagination and was always looking for ways to test myself.
That dream of being the roaming martial arts student seeking mastery never died, and I fi nd myself much later on in my life living that same dream. I am in a position to fi ght a legend in BJ Penn for the most prestigious belt in MMA. I must say, though, that winning the belt would be for my family, friends, and supporters. The challenge of BJ Penn, that is for me. I can go even further and say that it is not even BJ Penn whom I want. It is his skills that I want to test myself against. His speed, power, precision, fl exibility, and timing make him a nightmare to face. His reputation as a destroyer at 155 is well known. People are probably wondering, “Why do you want to face someone so dangerous?” It is much like those individuals who choose to climb Everest. They know the dangers, but climbing the biggest and baddest mountain out there is even more important than the concern for their own lives.
As many heard, after my last fi ght against Joe Stevenson, I proclaimed that “BJ Penn is the master.” I still believe that HE IS the master at 155 lbs. I too want to be a master. I want to know what it’s like to get to the top of the mountain. I won’t be satisfi ed talking about it. I have to try it. Every fi ght has been an important one for me. I take every fi ght as if it were a championship fi ght, but this one is different. There are no weaknesses in this upcoming opponent. In previous fi ghts, I could see clear openings and defi nite paths to victory. There is no clear plan or strategy for fi ghting Penn. This fi ght will just be skill versus skill and kill or be killed. This time I really will be lost in the middle of the forest, trying to fi nd my way back home. I may even have to battle cougars and bears to get out. Or maybe I am in Asia, somewhere up on a mountain, testing my skills against the greatest master in the land. I knew my training as a kid would come in handy one day.