Former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion BJ Penn is preparing to take on longtime number two welterweight contender Jon Fitch this weekend in Sydney, Australia and part of his preparation was importing fellow former champ and one-time rival Matt Hughes to his Hawaii-stationed training camp.
Known for his powerhouse wrestling, Hughes was brought into Penn’s camp to imitate the smothering grappling that Fitch brings to the table and to test Penn’s vaunted takedown defense. Speaking with MMAWeekly.com recently, “The Prodigy” discussed the time he spent training with Hughes and how he feels that training will impact his fight with Fitch.
“Me and Matt had great workouts, him trying to push me on the fence, him trying to take me down. I definitely think that was the best training partner I could’ve had for the fight,” Penn said.
Though the Hilo, Hawaii native knows that Hughes and Fitch are two different fighters and that Fitch might bring more to the table than Hughes did to their recent UFC 123 match, he still feels that his time spent training with Hughes will aid him in fighting Fitch where he’s strongest.
“I know he isn’t exactly like Fitch as far as height and boxing and kickboxing goes, but on the one area where Fitch definitely pushes all his opponents, his grinding them out and pushing them on the fence and taking them down, Matt really pushed me in those areas,” said Penn. “So I gained a lot of confidence working out with Matt.”
It was recently announced that the winner of Penn-Fitch is likely to receive a title shot at welterweight against whoever is the champion after current kingpin Georges St. Pierre takes on Jake Shields (also noting that St. Pierre–who holds wins over both Penn and Fitch–may vacate the division with a win over Shields), but that is currently the farthest thing from Penn’s mind.
“I’m not even thinking about that. I’m not thinking about titles,” Penn said. “I’m just happy to fight an opponent of Jon Fitch’s level and Jon Fitch’s stature.”
Penn and Fitch will square off at this weekend’s UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch fight card, which takes place at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.