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B.J. Penn talks UFC 232 return: ‘I have come full circle’

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UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez v Penn Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

B.J. Penn will officially make his return to the Octagon later this year when he takes on grappling expert and former Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Hall at UFC 232 in Las Vegas.

The booking was a surprise to many around the mixed martial arts (MMA) community considering “Prodigy” has decisively lost his last five Octagon appearances. In fact, the former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion hasn’t tasted victory since knocking out Matt Hughes back in 2010.

Still, the 39-year-old veteran believes he still has some juice left in the tank and that Hall is the perfect counterpart to prove it.

“I’m happy about the matchup,” Penn said in a statement to “Everybody was asking me to do a grappling match so maybe this will give some fans what they want to see.”

Hall, who hasn’t fought since a lackluster decision win over Gray Maynard nearly two years ago, is arguably one of the best grapplers on the UFC roster. If Hall trains alongside Tristar Gym head coach Firas Zahabi for his upcoming tilt with “Prodigy,” he may have a really good chance to capture the most memorable victory of his short MMA career.

“I’m happy to be competing against Firas again if he is training Ryan,” Penn said. “Firas is one of the best trainers of all time and it is an honor to go up against him again. I don’t have a good track record against Firas so I’m excited to prove myself.”

As for Penn’s training, he’s currently in Brazil getting some work done under the close watch of Andre “Dede” Pederneiras at Nova Uniao. It’s the same school Penn called home during his younger, and more dominant, days in UFC. Maybe it’s the change of scenery the veteran needs to finally get back into the win column.

“I’m very happy to be with Dede training for this fight,” Penn said. “I am in Brazil right now but I will figure out how to get my work with Jason Parillo [in] also. I’m so happy to be at my old school, Nova Uniao. Maybe I have come full circle.”

UFC 232 will go down on Dec. 29 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside T-Mobile Arena and feature a superfight between UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg and UFC women’s bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes.

For more UFC 232 fight card news click here.