Former two-division world champion BJ Penn got a raucous reception from fight fans this week during the UFC Fight Night open workouts in Phoenix and their adulation energized “The Prodigy” as he cut weight and looked towards his main event comeback bout against Yair Rodriguez. “I feel them. They feel me. I feed off of them,” Penn told reporters (below).
“I do love the competition and all that stuff but I love the fans. That’s why I’m here.”
When #BJPenn decided to come out of retirement for the second time, he said it was because he was tired of sitting on his couch and that he wanted to campaign for a world title at a third weight class. Faced with so many of his fans in person for the first time in years, however, Penn remembered just how much he craves their love and support.
“I love fighting. I love standing in front of somebody - ‘Let’s go, man. Let’s go, man. Let’s go.’ I love that stuff and I love all these people out here. I forgot this half (gesturing to the crowd),” he continued.
“I’m so happy I’m here.”
The Phoenix crowd will doubtless continue to cheer Penn on as he walks into the UFC Octagon on Sunday night, but he’ll be locked in the cage alone as always. Once that happens, the 38 year-old will be most concerned with righting the wrongs of past defeats.
“I’ve made some mistakes in the past,” he admitted.
“It’s time to come back and fix what we can.”
Penn has chosen a tough personification of absolution in the form of Rodriguez. The red-hot featherweight contender is younger, bigger, and fresher than Penn.
Still, it isn't hard to imagine Penn thinking mostly of correcting items that can be categorized as his own effort and discipline. Win or lose, Penn is back, enjoying the ride and relishing the chance to draw blood once more.