BJ Penn proved his doubters wrong last night in Auburn Hills, Michigan, by returning to form and scoring a devastating knockout over former rival Matt Hughes. Penn looked re-invigorated heading into the cage, and noted that he had been excited for the fight at its inception.
“I felt fired up as soon as I got the phone call to fight Matt. Me and Matt put on great fights, and I’m just happy it went that way,” said Penn at the evening’s post-fight press conference. “Matt Hughes is my idol, and he’ll always be my idol.”
“The Prodigy” came out of his corner with the urgency of someone who just remembered they left on the iron. He immediately set out to establish his jab and score on the feet, at one point catching a kick delivered by Hughes and countering with a punch. At the 0:21 mark, he unleashed a straight right hand that dropped Hughes to the canvas. The Hilo, Hawaii native then followed up with some ground and pound for good measure, and referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in to halt the action; leaving Hughes to ask his corner, “What happened?”
“It’s just something that happens,” Penn said of the closing sequence. “Who knows how it would have played out if it went longer?
“I don’t think that I really even set it up,” he continued. “I was just in there to fight. I wanted him to hit me, and I wanted to hit him… I was just in the mindset to fight like a kid. I got into this to fight, and I know a lot of people have been questioning if I was motivated or I wanted to do this. I really wanted to come out and show everyone my fighting spirit.”
An ecstatic Penn ran from the Octagon after helping Hughes to his feet, eventually re-entering for the reading of the official ruling. Penn yelled to the Michigan crowd, “I love you Detroit! I love you UFC! Matt Hughes you’re my idol, you’ve always been my idol! Thank you!” The audience returned the love in kind and cheered for Penn’s sixteenth career victory.
“For the last 10 years, I was trying to recreate the Caol Uno fight,” explained Penn on running out of the cage. “But, I thought, ‘I can’t be disrespectful to Matt. I gotta go back in there and give Matt the honors.’”
A disappointed Matt Hughes informed the crowd that Penn’s shot landed solid; so much so that Hughes actually thought the was hit with a knee or a kick. He explained that he felt he had a lot on the line for this fight and had trained very hard in preparation for BJ.
“I think we both evolved very much over the years,” Penn stated. “When a fight goes the way it did tonight, it’s just one of those things. Who knows how it would have played out if it had gone longer. I’m sure Matt was in great shape.”
With the win, Penn improves his record to 16-7-1 and he was also awarded the Knockout of the Night bonus to top off the victory. Once again, Penn wants to get back into the cage as soon as possible.
“I want to get back in as soon as possible,” said Penn. “I’m 31 and want to fight a lot more until I’m 35 and then maybe call it quits.
“For the first time in my career, I’m going to let Dana make that call [on his next fight],” Penn continued, to the surprise of the UFC President. “Whatever Dana says, we’ll go with that.”
As noted earlier, UFC President Dana White announced after the post-fight press conference that Penn would face Jon Fitch at UFC 127 in February.