SYDNEY AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 14: BJ Penn speaks to the media during a UFC 127 Press Conference at Star City on December 14 2010 in Sydney Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
B.J. Penn is happy.
Heading into the 26th professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fight of his Hall of Fame-worthy career, the soon-to-be 33-year-old "Prodigy" shares his new outlook in a blog for Yahoo!Sports.com. Penn is set to battle Nick Diaz -- a friend and frequent training partner -- in the UFC 137 main event this Saturday night (Oct. 29, 2011) from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Perhaps its their history together, or it really is indeed his experience (or a combination of the two), but the traditionally fiery Hawaiian has been exceptionally quiet. Penn's sharp tongue has been a key factor behind his appeal all these years, whether he was out to teach a "lucky" Jens Pulver a lesson, exact revenge against a heartless Georges St. Pierre or ride a one-dimensional Matt Hughes about his boring fighting style seemingly forever.
The two-time, two-division champion tries to explain his current, newfound perspective:
"Right now, I feel I got a clean slate with anyone in the sport. I am happy with my career, winning two titles and beating some great fighters, but I also feel I have more to do. I have to get better and I have to show I am as good as people have said I am. I’m getting older. This is a career to me, but fighting is what I live for. As far as having to hate everyone I fight, or proving I can outbox a boxer, or tap out the best BJJ guy, I don’t need to prove that anymore. What I want to do is fight hard, win some big fights and see what happens. I’d like to win the title, but I don’t think about that."
The key here is Penn never really had any true hate. Not if his post-fight actions and/or words are indicators at least. He hugged it out with "Lil Evil," buried the hatchet with "Rush" and trained/shot firearms with Hughes.
Penn's epic trash talk was usually contrived animosity or conflict, emotional nuggets on which he could hang his cap and ultimately use as motivation to get up for fights, as well as help sell them for the benefit of UFC's bottom line. It was brilliant. He was a pioneer, a care-free master of pre-fight hype.
Emphasis on was ... for now, anyway.