After a brief tryst with retirement, former two division UFC champion B.J. Penn has been called back to the octagon for UFC 152 by hot welterweight prospect Rory MacDonald. Many have tried to coax Penn to return to the UFC since his loss to Nick Diaz in October 2011, including perennial contender Josh Koscheck. But, it took a very specific challenger to get The Prodigy off the couch. In the above interview on Fuel TV’s UFC Tonight last night, Penn discussed his unfinished business with MacDonald’s team and UFC 152’s host nation of Canada.
“Yes, this is exactly what I needed,” Penn told UFC Tonight regarding MacDonald’s challenge. “It has everything that interests me. I am going to go up to Canada. I have a lot of Canadian fans who stop by my gym, but there are also a lot of Canadians that don’t like me because I said some stuff about Firas Zahabi and GSP and I know that stuff has passed. I want to go up there and show them that I am someone to be reckoned with. When I’m standing across from you in the Octagon it is going to be hard, and I’m not just going to be pushed up against the fence. I have a lot coming up in this training camp and it’s going to be a good fight for the fans.”
While UFC 152 will be Penn’s first trip to The Dominion of Canada to fight, Penn’s long time career rivalry with the fighting pride of the True North, Georges St. Pierre, has left him with a lot to prove. His last bout with GSP at UFC 94 ended with a dominant victory for St. Pierre. With MacDonald being a teammate of Rush’s, Penn sees Rory as a chance to try that camp, again.
“I definitely want redemption for UFC 94,” said Penn. “Win, lose or draw, I want to let them know who I am. Everyone who shows up to the arena in Toronto that night, I want to show them who the hell BJ Penn is. I know that [Tristar] have a lot of good fighters coming out of that gym, but I am going to use my inner fighter. I always felt that I wasn’t an athlete, that I was a fighter. I’m going to go out there and fight my heart out.”
While Penn focused a great deal on the context of the fight, he also felt that MacDonald’s abilities stood well enough on their own to make a compelling match up. Penn was highly complimentary in describing his opponent.
“I think Rory is a great fighter,” Penn said. “He has a lot of hype surrounding him. I think the hype is well placed, it’s justified, and he is doing really well. But, I wanted to go up against him and the whole Tristar team. They have a lot of good stuff going on up there and I really want to go up against them. When I fought last time, I thought I could have done better and I want to give it a shot again and walk away better.”
UFC 152 will be taking place on September 22 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The event was rumored to be headlined with a heavyweight title rematch between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez, but dos Santos’ camp recently released a statement saying that such a date was highly unlikely.