When I started doing these conference call wraps with UFC 117, I was a bit spoiled as we all got lucky with the awesomeness of Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen.
Thursday's call with UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn was the exact opposite, as it became clear early on that both men were very respectful of each other and holding their cards close to the chest.
Here are 11 quotes that stood out to me including Penn's thoughts on finishing fights, whether he cares about Florian/Maynard and an answer that might get Edgar booed by the Boston faithful a week from Saturday at UFC 118.
Why 11? Because there are too many Top 10 lists so I'm changing up the number. Genius, I tells ya...genius!
"My question is for BJ...."
I noticed that with nearly every question that was asked, the reporter always started with Penn first, almost a subconscious respect to someone that no one expected to lose to Edgar to begin with. Even I asked Penn a question first. Why was that?
It made me realize that a lot of us aren't taking Edgar seriously and that perhaps the consensus is that he's simply keeping the belt warm as Penn had a bad night in Abu Dhabi.
We'll see in just over a week, but it will be interesting to see how next week's media events unfold.
"Yeah. I try not to even think about the title. It’s another fight, it’s another great challenge ahead of me and that’s how I approach it. So this is a totally new fight for me whether it’s a title defense or a new fight, old fight...it doesn’t matter. It’s all the same to me."
This was Edgar on the mentality of going in and defending a belt rather than fighting for one. This will be his first-ever rematch and first time defending a title of any caliber.
Rematches are interesting in how you game plan. Both guys said they don't like watching tape, Penn saying he gets too bored doing so.
This will be Penn's fifth rematch and he's gone just 1-2-1 in those second stanzas (drew with Caol Uno, lost to Matt Hughes and GSP, beat Jens Pulver). Edgar has never had a rematch in professional MMA.
"I think there are a lot of great fights out there. I’m 31 right now and I have been with the company for 10 years and I really want to be as active as I can in this next couple years coming up in my life.
"So I’m glad that there are all these contenders around in the division. It’s very good. It’s a very good division."
It's always awesome when you get an honest response to questions about where a fighter thinks they're at in their career. Despite being just 31, Penn is a veteran and as fighters creep up in age, skills start to slide.
Penn clearly wants to be a force over the next few years and be very active, a great thing for the UFC as they continue to expand and put on more shows. Now if they just absorb the WEC's lightweight division into the UFC, that talent pool will deepen even more.
"...When I first started fighting, I thought I was God’s gift to fighting. I thought I would go win 100 in a row with 100 knockouts. I just sit back and I look at my record and I can’t believe that I have six losses. It just blows me away.
"But every time that you get a loss, you take a different path and you get back on the right journey of why you started this thing in the first place, because it’s a journey of never ending...you never stop learning.
And I do believe, if of course I won that fight, I would have changed nothing in my game and set myself up to fall even harder in the future. And I really think that that was a blessing for me and now my game can keep evolving and not stay there and become extinct."
More introspective BJ. He would go on to question whether his biological clock was ticking because he wants to fight so much and that while it's not all about the money, making some is also important.
"(Hannah) called me, I believe the Monday or Tuesday I got back from Abu Dhabi and asked me if I’d fight BJ again, you know, around this time (August) and I said yes. That’s pretty much it."
There is a ton of talk about immediate rematches these days, especially when it comes to the UFC. People are screaming for Silva/Sonnen II but due to Silva's injury, that throws off the timetable to do so. The UFC 112 event took place on a Saturday and they solidified the rematch within days, as Edgar alluded to.
Edgar wanted this rematch as he said Penn made obvious sense. Penn obviously wanted it and it was on. By comparison, Sonnen wants Silva again but if you listen to Silva's manager Ed Soares, they don't seem to be interested in that.
"...I think every fighter should have that same motivation to want to finish because it puts more money in all of our pockets and it builds the UFC and it just makes everybody happy all the way around, you know.
"There is a lot of controversy with people taking the fight out of ultimate fighting, you know, and they really want to go to decision and they feel happy with that.
"I definitely see that trend and another trend I see is every fighter looks the same. Every fighter looks exactly the same. It’s just crazy now but I guess that’s just the future of the sport and that’s how the sport is evolved.
"Nobody wants to be on their back because, you know, even if the guy doesn’t do one bit of damage, you’re still going to lose the fight and that is really affecting how the fighters fight. Because the judges, as we all know, they don’t know what they’re doing.
"it’s just - the whole judging - I don’t think anyone should get points for any other (grappling) position. It’s like...what’s the sense of taking (Damion Meyer) down and why should you get points for that and why should you get points for mounting James Toney? You know, it just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s just all about damage and submission attempts. That’s the only things that really matter in the fight."
I think this might have been my favorite answer of the day. Penn was asked about finishing fights and how in the Edgar loss, it went to a decision. You don't hear fighters talk openly about the motivation of finishing in these terms and addressing the trend of decision-oriented fighters.
I also thought the 'every fighter looks the same' comment was interesting. I'm not sure if he meant style-wise, look-wise or something else all together. He also chimed in on the increased groaning toward those who judge the sport. But like with most state-run organizations, change is slow.
And the misspelling of Demian Maia's name was that way in the transcript. I just left it in for a laugh. Damion Meyer!
"...I’m in California right now. One of my plans was to get a little closer on the time zone so it was just a three-hour difference and then we head out Saturday to Boston.
"Hopefully, we can acclimate it in a week to the three-hour difference. And as far as that goes, you know, I’m good with the time zones. I think my body knows when it’s time it’s going to wake up and defend itself."
I asked both guys about whether they adjust their training for the time zone difference. When they go at it, it will likely be midnight EST, so I've always been curious about that.
Penn said it really isn't an issue and that when he was younger, he worried about those types of things.
Edgar also said he's going to train a bit later in the day next week, but that the time zone won't be a big deal for him as he's an East Coast guy.
"I am a Yankees fan. That might cost me some fans right now but yeah, I’m a Yankees fan."
Now you know as a Boston-area sportswriter, I had to ask this one of the New Jersey native Edgar. I mentioned to Yahoo's Steve Cofield on Twitter that if Penn made some merch with the Boston 'B' on it, he'd make a mint and win over a ton of fans.
All kidding aside, it will be interesting to see who the fan favorite is for this. I would assume Penn because he is more well-known, but you never know.
"You know, when you hear people say you're the greatest lightweight of all time and this and that and this and that, it's bullshit. It's not real. It's fake. Being the champ is fake, all of that is all fake.
"You just go out there, you've got to keep training, keeping training as hard as you can and keep winning fights. The only thing that's real is the fight. Everything else is fake."
I'm not sure why this Penn quote stood out to me, but it did. Maybe it was the word 'fake' but I think sometimes we as fans/media put more emphasis on things like titles and recognition than the fighters actually do.
"And you know what? People get confused. People think all of this hype and they think all of these things. They think Chael Sonnen is serious when he's saying all of this stuff. They think James Toney's serious when he's saying all of this stuff.
"They're hyping up their fight and they're doing their job, you know? And you know what? It would be nice (to see Toney do well). I want to see James Toney go out there and do something."
Penn was asked about James Toney's chances and he said he had met Toney and hoped he did well, avoiding the burial that some fighters in the industry are doling out to the former heavyweight boxing champion.
Penn understands fight promotion, but also knows when to call b.s. on another fighter. He definitely seems more insightful and introspective than previous times I've heard him discuss fights.
"I could care less about that fight, to tell you the truth."
This was Penn when asked about how closely he'd be watching the Kenny Florian/Gray Maynard fight that night.
Here's a note to all aspiring MMA journalists: never ask a fighter about a future fight when he's focusing on the opponent at hand and don't ask them if they're watching another fight that night...especially when the person you're asking is in the main event.
You'll never get a good answer and honestly, they don't care about anything other than their fight. In this case, I don't blame them considering the Lightweight title is on the line with a lot at stake for both fighters.
Keep it locked on BleacherReport.com/mma all next week as I'll be live on the scene in Boston all the way through UFC 118...live blogging the event right here.
In addition, look for all kinds of features on the fighters from the great assembly of writers we have here. Believe it!
Josh Nason is a freelance MMA journalist that has contributed to FIGHT! Magazine, Apollo Magazine and Bleacher Report, appearing regularly on The Fight Show with Mauro Ranallo and Rubber Guard Radio. Follow him on Twitter, will ya?
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