In a new interview with MMAJunkie, former lightweight champion BJ Penn admits that he contemplated hanging up his gloves after losing for a second time to current belt holder Frankie Edgar at UFC 118.
“I was flying home, I was kind of like, ‘Maybe I don’t want to do this anymore; I don’t know what’s wrong. If I’m going to go out there and perform like that, maybe this isn’t something worth doing.”
It seems the 31 year-old quickly talked himself round however.
“when I got to Hawaii and jumped on a little island-hopper to go to my island, something told me, ‘B.J., stick to your game plan.’ So I’m sticking to it.”
In the interview Penn reveals that the UFC had targeted a rematch with Kenny Florian for him at UFC 123, but after Ken-Flo pulled out due to injury the promotion switched things up and made the Hawaiian an offer he couldn’t refuse – a fight with old foe at welterweight.
“[Dana] said, ‘What do you think about Hughes?” Penn recalls. “I said, ‘Matt Hughes?’ I got chicken skin all over my body. I said, ‘Tell him I’m coming. Tell him, let’s go.”
The two currently hold a fight apiece against each other at 170lbs dating back to a rivalry between 2004-2006 and the chance to complete the trilogy appears to be just the kind of fight Penn was looking for.
“I think fighters get excited for big fights, which is just why I was so excited. I know everybody’s going to be interested to see what happens – people from both ends. Some people say, ‘Matt Hughes is kind of coming up, and maybe B.J.’s going down a little. But we still know that if B.J. comes in good, he could really pull this off.’ Matt’s always good, so I think it’s a good fight.”
It seems that Penn is not the only one excited by the idea of this fight. After winning his last fight Matt Hughes claimed that he was now going to take the rest of the year off to indulge in his love of hunting and fishing.
When White floated the Penn fight past him Hughes immediately canceled his plans and got back into training.
Both men may have had thoughts about retirement in recent times, but clearly deep down the competitive fire that helped them to become two of the best fighters in the history of the sport still burns as brightly as ever.