Does UFC on Fox 5's BJ Penn Really Still Have What It Takes to Win?

Jonathan SnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterNovember 29, 2012

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27:  BJ Penn of the USA walks into the arena before the start of his welterweight bout agains John Fitch of the USA as part of UFC 127 at Acer Arena on February 27, 2011 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

There's a running joke among members of the MMA media that pokes some gentle fun at UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. The champ may be arguably the greatest fighter of all time, but he's not the most creative interview. And that's being charitable.

Without fail, rain or shine, in the midst of nuclear Armageddon, St-Pierre has the same exact soundbites before every bout.

"(Fill in opponent's name) is my most dangerous opponent yet. I am in the best shape of my life.  I will have to be the best Georges St-Pierre I can possibly be to win." 

A similar conversation happens every time the legendary BJ Penn fights as well. With Penn, a gifted fighter with an incredible skill set and warrior's heart, it always seems to come down to effort and interest. The challenge never seems to be external. It's the internal battle, the struggle with himself, his weight, his desire, that decides the outcome of most every Penn fight. 

Does the opponent interest him?

Can his team keep him away from food?

Will he be willing to train hard for eight weeks?

If the answer to each is an affirmative, it's going to be a very long night for his opponent. And, from what I can tell, it may be a very long night indeed for UFC on Fox 5 opponent Rory MacDonald, a man who has no one to blame but himself for his motivated opponent.

According to Penn, it was MacDona'd's jabs at his weight that led the former champion into the gym each and every day, training with a hand-picked selection of all-stars like Bellator star Ben Askren and Strikeforce fighters Tyron Woodley and Pat Healy. His body fat has dropped down to under 10 percent, all in an effort to better punch MacDonald in the face.

"Fighting is still not a sport for me," Penn said on a media conference call. "..Fighting is still a fight for me. It always has been. I'm not a great athlete that can play any sport. But one thing I could always do is fight back.

"This is a fight. This isn't putting a ball in a hole. This has always been a fight for me, and I just love it when it's that way. I love it when my opponent says 'He's fat.' 'I'll end up killing him.' 'He's nothing.' This and that. It's all wonderful. I couldn't ask for anything more."

For the 33-year-old Penn, an 11-year pro, the clock is ticking on his time as an upper echelon fighter. He's won just one of his last five fights and realizes that he won't be able to compete with young guns like MacDonald forever. That's why he wanted this fight so badly—not just to silence a disrespectful foe, but to reestablish his place in the pecking order.

"I texted Dana a couple months ago saying I watch all these interviews and no one says my name when they are talking about the greatest fighters anymore and I really don't like that," Penn said. "It really bothers me. I know it's my fault and I'm the reason why people talk about me when they talk about GSP or Anderson Silva. My name was always in the mix. It's never in the mix any more.

"Everything is current...I don't want to be known as 'he was good back in the day.' I want to be known as one of the best...I still think I have some left to accomplish."

Penn and MacDonald is one of several top-tier fights free on Fox at 8 P.M. ET on Dec. 8, broadcast live from the Key Arena in Seattle.