BJ Penn was one fighter that UFC President Dana White loved to hate. White was Penn’s biggest supporter, and his biggest critic at the same time due to a lack of focus and drive he saw from the former two-time UFC champion.
Now, as age begins to creep up on Penn, “The Prodigy” has taken a different approach to his training. Penn will return to the Octagon on October 29 at UFC 137 when he meets former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz in the co-main event.
“I’m training a lot harder. Back in the day, I used to pride myself on how little I could do and get away with it; now, I try to pride myself on how much I do,” said Penn, in a recent interview with UFC.com. “I try to work real hard, train as much as I can, eat healthy food, and I want to see how far I can take it.”
Penn, who fought to a draw with Jon Fitch earlier this year after knocking out Matt Hughes, has also changed how he interacts with MMA fans. While training and living in Hawaii, Penn feels he used to be unhappy when people placed pressure on him to perform. Now, he embraces it.
“When it comes to the pressure, I used to hate it and that’s what used to burn me out. I used to hate fighting for everybody else, answering to everybody else. I just wanted to do it for myself,” Penn said. “Now I love doing it for everybody. I love when the people come up to me around town and say something to me. I love it – come, come support me, come believe I can do all these things, and I will do all these things. I never used to be happy with the idea of all these people putting all this pressure on me, but now I know why they do it, and I love it.”
Along with Penn-Diaz, UFC 137 will feature a championship match pitting Georges St-Pierre against Carlos Condit. It is possible that the winner of Penn-Diaz becomes the next challenger to the UFC welterweight title.