The last time former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight and Welterweight Champion B.J. Penn entered the cage versus a member of the Toronto-based Tri-Star Gym, things didn't go in his favor.
If we're being honest, things went in the total opposite direction.
"The Prodigy" squared off against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94 in Las Vegas, Nevada, in Jan. 2009. In the championship match up, "GSP" emerged victorious by way of technical knockout (corner stoppage). It was a low point in Penn's career, and the aftermath (which included Penn making accusations of "greasing" by his St. Pierre) didn't help matters.
Penn will get a shot at redemption, sorta, when he takes on Tri-Star product Rory MacDonald at UFC 152 on Sept. 22, 2012, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The 170-pound showdown is a chance for Penn to get some payback versus Tri-Star, as well as end his legendary career on a high note.
During an interview with FUEL TV's "UFC Tonight," Penn talked about his desire to walk away from the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), leaving the fans with a fond memory of who he was as a fighter:
"The reason why I came back to fight Rory, after he put that challenge out, is, you know, Rory is a guy with a lot of hype around him. It's a lot of good hype, ya know? It's justified. He's been doing very well. I wanted to go up against him, Firas, the whole Tri-Star team. The have a real good thing going on up there, and I wanna take a crack at it. I had the fight with them, I think it's a few years ago now, and I really feel that I could have put on a better performance. I wanna give it another shot, and I wanna walk away, after that, knowing that everything was left in the Octagon."
According to Penn, this fight is an opportunity to show Tri-Star Gym, and all of Canada, that he's not someone who should be taken lightly:
"This is exactly what I needed. It's got everything that interests me, you know? The Canadian fans, I have a lot of Canadian fans that always come down and tell me "hi" when I'm in Hawaii -- stop by my gym and stuff. But there were also a lot of Canadian fans that were really hard on me because of some of the stuff I said in the 'Prime Time' leading up. Ya know, I said some things about Firas. I said some things about 'GSP.' I know that's the past, but I wanna go up there and show them that, hey, I'm someone to be reckoned with. When I'm standing across in the Octagon, this is gonna be a tough fight. This isn't gonna be a walkthrough. This isn't gonna be, 'Let's go push B.J. Penn up against the fence. Hold him on the fence for a little bit and now we got him.' You know, I got some ideas going into this camp, and I think it's gonna be great. The fans are the ones who are gonna win in the end."
Penn knows this is going to be a very difficult fight, but he plans on digging deep into his reserves for that little extra that has kept him going his whole career:
"I definitely wanna get redemption. I think it's a little of both. I wanna get redemption for UFC 94. You know, win, lose or draw, I just wanna let them know who I am. I just wanna let everyone know who shows up to that arena in Toronto, that night, I wanna let everybody know who the hell B.J. Penn is. That's what they're gonna find out that night. And yeah, going up against all of them, as a whole, they got a good thing going. They got many great fighters coming out of that gym, and I know, of course, they're gonna have Rory prepared. What I'm gonna use is my inner fire, my inner fight. That's what I always was. I always felt that I wasn't an athlete, I was a fighter. I'm just gonna go out there, and I'm gonna fight my heart out."
Can future UFC Hall of Fame inductee ride off into the sunset as the victor? Are you Maniacs going to rooting for "The Prodigy" to get one last notch in his belt before the book is closed on his career? Or will you be pulling for "Rory Mac?"