UFC President Dana White is extremely impressed with the new-look B.J. Penn. Penn, who began training with noted physical trainer Marv Marinovich, is said to be in the best shape of his life which has paid huge dividends in the cage, where the reigning lightweight champion has put together dominant back-to-back performances over the top two UFC lightweight contenders in Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez.
"I went up to B.J. today during the press conference and I said, ‘I don't want to sound goofy or condescending, but I'm proud of you man,'" White said. "I've always believed he was an incredibly gifted, talented fighter and athlete, and now he's going out and he's proving it."
In both fights, Penn showed that he may have gained a lot from his lopsided defeat at the hands of welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at the beginning of the year, and may be finally shedding the widespread belief that his cardio is a weakness.
The native Hawaiian appeared just as fresh in the forth and fifth rounds of his fights with Florian and Sanchez respectively, as he was in the first and had plenty left in the tank to end both fights convincingly.
Penn has admittedly relied on his vast natural talent for the majority of his career. He was said to have begun training seriously only after a loss to Matt Hughes in 2006 in which Penn dominated the first two rounds before famously gassing in the third. He also suffered broken ribs in the fight which certainly affected his performance as well, but Penn was quoted as saying that he had decided to take the sport seriously after that fight.
"Me and B.J. have been bumping heads behind the scenes for years," White said. "This kid wanted to bounce around to all these different weight classes, he wanted to go to heavyweight and fight Randy Couture when he's got a 155-pound frame. Is he talented enough to do it? Absolutely. Does that mean he should do it? Absolutely not."
He dropped down to lightweight from welterweight and went on to win his next three fights in very impressive fashion, capturing the lightweight title over Sean Sherk in the process.
After earning the title, Penn decided to move back up to welterweight at UFC 94 in January to rematch Georges St. Pierre, who he had narrowly lost to via split decision back in 2006. However, there was no question who had evolved into the better fighter that night. St. Pierre crushed Penn with a masterful display of wrestling and ground-and-pound. Penn, who had never given up in a fight previously, was forced to throw in the towel before the fifth round.
Many were left unsure whether the proud warrior would retire or continue fighting after being "beaten" for the first time in his career. Penn had suffered four losses prior to his loss to St. Pierre, but all were justifiable according to Penn himself.
His first loss, to Jens Pulver, was a close decision and was brutally avenged later in his career. His second, was another close decision loss to current light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at heavyweight in which Penn was outweighed by over thirty pounds. His third loss was the controversial split-decision defeat to Georges St. Pierre in a fight that many felt he won. The forth, was a defeat at the hands of Matt Hughes in a fight which Penn dominated before breaking his ribs at the end of the...