B.J. Penn sees the clock ticking.
That's why the ex-champ is preparing as hard as he ever has for his next fight, a welterweight showdown with up-and-comer Rory MacDonald taking place December 8.
"I know I won't be able to do this for the rest of my life. I want to be the best B.J. Penn I can be," Penn said Tuesday during a media conference call in advance of UFC on Fox 5. "My whole life is focused on December 8...I really expect a lot out of myself."
Penn, 33, said he has whittled his body fat percentage down to single digits during training camp. But if Father Time wasn't adversary enough, Penn (16-8-2) also placed the rationale for his intensified training on MacDonald's shoulders. After their initial fight date fell through following a MacDonald injury, the two traded jabs on Twitter, with MacDonald calling Penn out of shape.
"Rory called me fat, and it lit a fire under my butt," Penn said. "Delaying the fight was the best thing that could have happened...Saying I'm fat, I can't do this or can't do that, it was wonderful."
Still, Penn blamed himself for "not preparing properly" for previous fights and implied that he believes he may have squandered a bit of his own potential legacy, despite the championship heights he has attained.
"No one says my name anymore when they talk about the greatest fighters ever, and I know it's my fault," Penn said. "That really bothers me...I've got a real problem with that."
Penn said he had no fighting plans beyond December 8, preferring to focus intently on the here and now.
"I don't want to just be good back in the day," Penn said. "I have something left to accomplish."
MacDonald is currently a significant favorite to win the fight. But if Penn's pre-fight comments are any indication, he is by no means ready to collect a final paycheck and fade into the Hawaiian sunset.
"Fighting is still not a sport for me," Penn said. "It's a fight for me. I'm not a great athlete who can play every different sport. But I can always fight back."
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.