This matchup has seemed almost arbitrary. BJ Penn, a legendary two-division champion, is facing Yair Rodriguez, a 24-year-old prospect who has wowed MMA fans with a flashy style that's sure to entice highlight reel engineers everywhere. Why would Penn want to fight Rodriguez? Especially considering the two of them have trained together at Jackson-Wink's gym? Additionally, why would BJ take such a tough fight (and with someone who doesn't have a huge name)?
The answer is because BJ Penn is BJ Penn. He's a guy who doesn't back down from any fight, and because the scuttlebutt around Albuquerque seemed to demand the old man and young lion throw down.
Here's what Penn told MMA Fighting:
“I think Yair and his manager saw me training at the gym (at Jackson-Winkeljohn) and thought, ‘this guy doesn’t have it anymore. Let’s fight this guy. He’s a big name, and let’s try to make our name off his.’ And that’s exactly how this fight got put together,” Penn told MMA Fighting ahead of Sunday night.
“Some people from the gym said, ‘hey, Yair is a p*ssy, he’s going to try to fight you because he thinks you’re older,’ and this and that. ‘His manager is trying to push for the fight.’ And I go, really, huh? I was talking to my buddies in Albuquerque, and then the UFC called me two weeks later and offered me Yair. That’s what it was.
Rodriguez is denying these allegations, but where there's smoke, there's fire. A decisive win over Baby Jay, even when he's years past his prime, vaults Rodriguez deeper into the UFC's featherweight top ten and with a significant notch in his belt.