In a recent interview with IGN Sports in promotion of the new “UFC Undisputed 2010″ videogame, UFC lightweight champion BJ “The Prodigy” Penn talked about his chances competing at 170lbs. and whether or not the closed guard is dead in MMA.
Much has been made of welterweight contender Jon Fitch’s recent comment that the “closed guard (a standard position in traditional Jiu-jitsu) is dead in MMA.” Penn, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu whose original claim to fame was becoming the first non-Brazilian to win the Jiu-jitsu Mundials, doesn’t necessarily disagree with him.
“I guess if you’re in the closed guard you either gotta go for a submission or go for a sweep, or get back to your feet. Because, you know, the way the rules are set, the rules are set for whoever has the better takedowns….It doesn’t matter what the guy on the bottom does,” said Penn. “But I definitely think you can use the closed guard. Guys like “Minotauro” [Nogueira], they show it. It’s just different people’s games. But Jon Fitch is right, if you’re on the bottom in your closed guard you’re gonna be losing by decision for sure.”
Penn usually prefers implementing his Jiu-jitsu from top position rather than from his back. That changed in his recent fight to welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre where he was seen employing innovative tactics known as the rubber guard and mission control.
“I just really like the mission control position, to tell you the truth. All the stuff that comes off it–the omoplatas, the arm bars, and the triangles–that stuff’s pretty self-explanatory. If you’ve got a pretty good idea of Jiu Jitsu, that stuff kinda blends well,” said “The Prodigy”. “You can kind of pin the guy down, and you can kind of hit him if he stays close to you. I definitely like the rubber guard. I always try to use it, especially when I’m just grappling or at the gym.”
The Hilo, Hawaii native is famous for competing in much higher weight classes than his frame makes comfortable; he even won his first UFC title at welterweight. There have been rumblings of another move up in weight for Penn that would see him taking on contenders in hopes of recapturing the welterweight championship.
BJ responds to the rumors: “Yeah, I think there is a possibility of that. I don’t in no way want to look past Frankie Edgar, he’s a good fighter. You never know what could happen. But if I go back to welterweight, maybe I’ll try to give it a run, maybe fight a couple of fights there, we’ll see how it goes.”
He went on to discuss his chances against the large 170lbs. like Thiago Alves and Jon Fitch.
“I think I could do good against some of the top welterweights,” he said. “Yeah, pretty big guys, but you gotta live some times, you gotta step up sometime, huh?”
Penn also said that, depending on the outcome of the upcoming Matt Hughes Vs. Renzo Gracie fight, that he is open to a rubber match with Matt Hughes (Penn submitted Hughes to win the 170lbs title but lost in a rematch). Penn seems to be leaning away from bouncing around in weight; he told IGN that he “might try to do it permanent.”
Before those of us who find a renewed Penn’s prospects at welterweight intriguing get too excited though, we should note that Penn and his innovative trainers (Marv and Gary Marinovich) “haven’t even talked about [moving up to welterweight].”
“The Prodigy” seems relaxed and in a groove right now in his career. Penn is very close to clearing out his division of worthy contenders. Depending on the results of his looming fight with Frankie Edgar, I don’t think that many people would be surprised to see him move up and try his chances against the bigger dogs at welterweight.