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BJ Penn defends decision to stay at featherweight, eyes third world title

Nissi Icasiano
BJ Penn defends decision to stay at featherweight, eyes third world title

Josh Albelda/RAPPLER

Penn has optimism that he will perform well at the 145-pound division

MANILA, Philippines – Despite the criticism of his decision to stay at featherweight, mixed martial arts (MMA) legend BJ Penn remains optimistic that he can replicate his previous success as a 145-pound competitor.

Many are doubting Penn in his next featherweight stint after his lackluster performance in his division debut over two years ago.

In his maiden featherweight appearance, Penn suffered a one-sided setback at the hands of Frankie Edgar, which was their third encounter inside the Octagon.

The 37-year-old native of Hilo, Hawaii had virtually nothing to offer Edgar as the latter had all the right answers, pounding his opponent for two-plus rounds before finally forcing referee Herb Dean to halt the contest at the 4:16 mark of the third round.

“It’s a fair criticism. On the other side, I got to be a fighter. I got to keep going,” Penn told Rappler about his first fight as a featherweight.

Penn, who became a world champion in both welterweight and lightweight divisions, says that dropping to 145 pounds is much easier for him as his body learned to adapt to the weight.

“It is pretty an easy cut for me to get 145. The last time I cut, I woke up on the weigh-in day at 143 without sitting in the sauna. I think we can make that weight pretty easy,” he disclosed.

Penn is scheduled to face number 4-ranked featherweight Ricardo Lamas in the main event of UFC Fight Night Manila 2, which takes place at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on October 15.

As part of his preparation for his 5-round encounter against Lamas, Penn brought in nutritionist Louis Giordano, who also works in the same capacity with UFC fighters like Jon Jones, Andrei Arlovski, Johny Hendricks and Aljamain Sterling.

Aside from his unexpected return to active competition after he temporarily decided to hang up his gloves, Penn sets his sights on becoming the first 3-division world champion in both UFC and MMA.

“By fighting at 145, comes that third world title. The game plan is get the 145-pound title and get the 155-pound title again. But I got to do it one step at a time,” he said.

Even though he is not currently ranked as a featherweight, Penn believes that a convincing victory over Lamas will give him a better position in the 145-pound standings.

“When that (a win over Lamas) happens, it would be easier for the UFC to get me up the ladder quicker. It’s a great fight for the UFC in both ways,” he stated.

With his new-found motivation in the sport, Penn is confident that he will walk out of the SM Mall of Asia Arena with his hand raised in triumph.

“Every time I put myself into a fighting position, I think of the way and the performance that I’m going to destroy this person,” he shared.

“That’s why I chose Manila because I really feel the crowd is going to bring out the best out of my performance. And I hope I can bring out the best out of the crowd,” Penn added. –

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