Itās old lion vs. young lion this weekend as former UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn comes out of a self imposed retirement to take on the super talented Yair Rodriguez in the main event of UFC Fight Night 103 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Itās been two and a half years since Penn last stepped foot inside the Octagon, and over six years since he last recorded a win, but regardless the Hall of Fame icon is once again just hours away from making the walk for his 29th professional fight.Ā
Ahead of him lies one of the most exciting talents in the UFCās featherweight division. āAl Panteraā has a pro record of 9-1 and is undefeated in the UFC. Regardless, Penn maintains he's once again motivated and has typical lofty goals on his return to action.
āIām all in. Weāre going for the 145lb title,ā he said yesterday. āWhen we get that title, Iāll sit down with my friends, family and trainers and talk about whatās next ā talk about the future. A manās mind changes from time to time. But 100% weāre going to go for that belt first.ā
Penn believes his opponentās team has made an error in accepting this fight and Rodriguez is in for a rude awakening. āThe manager made a big mistake for Yair,ā Penn added. āThe manager just didnāt look. He probably thought, āAh, BJ is done. Heās a big name.ā But he didnāt look back in history.Ā
āWhenever I get embarrassed, or I lose bad, I come back 10 times stronger every single time. I think the manager is going to have to be sitting there now and think, 'I really did a bad move for this kidās career.'ā
For Rodriguez, on paper, there isnāt any upside in getting a win over Penn, who isnāt even in the top 15 of the UFCās official rankings. However, defeating a true icon of the game in another UFC main event slot will do wonders for his profile. And the Mexican insists he isnāt allowing any emotions get in the way of the fight.
āI have nothing against him personally ā this is just a sport, a competition,ā Rodriguez said. I didnāt ask for the fight. I know heās saying that. I donāt know why heās saying that. Heās someone I respect a lot, but Iām never going to ask for a fighter or a fight. The UFC calls you and asks you, do you want to fight this guy? You say yes or no ā thatās it. Iām never going to ask for a fight.ā
As a former champion there may not be anything left to prove for Penn, but having lost his last three in a row, getting a win over what many believe to be the future of the featherweight division wouldnāt be a bad way to kick off one final championship campaign.