As B.J. Penn heads into his welterweight bout with Nick Diaz this weekend at UFC 137, questions remain about his future either in the event of a win or a loss.
He's 32. Should he lose, the direction at lightweight or welterweight isn't clear. He'd likely garner a key match-up in either division, but not a title shot.
Should he win, he's still in similar predicament. He's got enough star power and fan favoratism to find himself against a noteworthy opponent, but the title shot would remain far out of reach.
The upshot? Penn just can't be bothered to worry about it either way.
In this interview with Penn conducted on MMA Nation on 106.7 The Fan, I talk to Penn about potential match-ups and whether he has interest in them, how his jiu-jitsu game differs from Nick Diaz and perhaps most importantly, his take on the suggestion UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre could/should compete at lightweight.
Full transcription and audio below:
Luke Thomas: B.J. Penn, how are you, sir?
B.J. Penn: How's it going man? Thanks for having me on.
Luke Thomas: Very good. B.J., are you a Manny Pacquiao fan? The reason why I ask is because there's video floating around of his strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza saying you're his favorite fighter. First of all, are you a fan, and B) would you ever use that as an attempt to maybe train with him or maybe hang around him?
B.J. Penn: I am definitely a Manny Pacquiao fan. I've been a Manny Pacquiao fan for a long time and I'd love to go train with him.
Luke Thomas: Would you ever take initiative or would he have to come your way?
B.J. Penn: No I'd take the initiative. I've just been busy training for fights and I'm sure he's training for fights. I'm very honored that Alex Ariza said that I'm his favorite fighter. That's flattering.
Luke Thomas: Who wins between Pacquiao and Mayweather should it happen?
B.J. Penn: You'd have to say, if it was going to a knockout it would be a Pacquiao and I'd have to give the edge to Pacquiao right now though. Let me give the edge to Pacquiao against Mayweather and Mayweather did look good in his last fight. His reflexes were still there and he was moving but I'd have to give the edge right now to Manny Pacquiao.
Luke Thomas: Alright, I want to talk to you about your opponent Nick Diaz. You're in the main event now. Obviously the card has been moved around quite a bit but it is the main event, you and Nick Diaz. For those that are more in tune with the ground game, how would you compare and contrast really your jiu-jitsu style with Nick Diaz? How do your games differ?
B.J. Penn: Jiu-jitsu-wise, Nick Diaz has a long body so he can use a lot of leverage and pendulum-type movements because his legs are so long. He's kind of more of a flow, he flows around, he doesn't really try to muscle things. He's a very technical guy. I think my style is more like, I'm all power and strength.
Luke Thomas: Are you more of a back-taker and mount type of guy and he's more of a guard player? Do you think that's kind of a fair characterization?
B.J. Penn: Yeah, yeah I like to take the back and I like to get the mount or pass guard. I've been working on my guard a lot too but I don't like to wait around for position but Nick works well. He can do the slower jiu-jitsu, he's got the longer game, longer body, he works well like that.
Luke Thomas: Nick Diaz is obviously a very talented fighter but he's been fighting guys, what I would describe charitably as up-and-down quality in Strikeforce, some very good, some not so much. Do you think he is prepared for the rather deep waters of the UFC welterweight division?
B.J. Penn: I think Nick Diaz is prepared for the level of competition. I think he's been prepared for it for a long time. I mean, he's fought Diego Sanchez, he's fought Karo Parisyan. He's fought a lot of good fighters. I think, I definitely think that certain types of fighters that work in the UFC with the style of taking the guy down and holding the guy down, I could see something like that giving him problems with the way the UFC judges fights but at the end of the day, Nick, they put him up against some great match-ups. They put him up against fan-favorite match-ups and they did it for the fans and Nick delivered every time for them. In that respect, if you look at it like that, I respect it. They put him against Paul Daley, they put him against Cyborg, they put him against K.J. Noons, all these guys. They are all strikers and strictly strikers but at the end of the day, Nick Diaz delivered like he was supposed to. It's hard not to respect someone like that.
Luke Thomas: There are articles where you are talking about, if you could get a third title shot against Georges St. Pierre, you would, but you're not gonna wait around for it, you're just going to move forward with your career and see what happens. So let me introduce the possibility. Jose Aldo is having more and more difficulty, it's reported, making weight for 145, he might move to 155. On the chance that he does move and the UFC offered you that fight at 155, would you take it?
B.J. Penn: You know what? Jose Aldo is someone who's not on my radar in any way, shape, or form. We actually come from the same school and trained at the same place. I know fighting is a business just like anything else but as of right this second, Jose Aldo is not on my radar at any way.
Luke Thomas: Does that go for all Nova Uniao fighters?
B.J. Penn: Yes, yes it does.
Luke Thomas: Ok, let's talk about Georges St. Pierre then because Firas Zahabi, his trainer, said he could make 155 now that he's given up weight lifting and gone to gymnastics, it's easier and easier for him to make 170. First of all, do you think that's a realistic possibility that he could compete in the UFC lightweight division, he can physically make that weight without athletic tradeoffs?
B.J. Penn: You know what? With Firas saying that Georges St. Pierre can make 155 pounds easily, it's easy for me sit here and call BS on that but I guess Firas would know much better than I would. We'll just have to wait and see I guess. That would be pretty amazing if St. Pierre made 155. That would be awesome to see.
Luke Thomas: Do you care, let's say they do give you an opportunity. Do you care if it's at lightweight or welterweight?
B.J. Penn: I think the place you'd want to fight Georges and be able to beat Georges would be at welterweight because, even if you did fight him at lightweight and he was depleted down and say you did beat him, you would always have to do that welterweight fight anyway.
Luke Thomas: Alright, you have been, and it's a criticism that I share by the way, that Georges St. Pierre can be argued in his recent fights has been competing you can call it risk-averse and fans say, "What is he supposed to do? Is he supposed to go out there and throw caution to the wind?" The answer is, "No." There is an obvious middle ground of not acting recklessly but trying to win the fight. Who in your mind besides yourself, I'm assuming, who in your mind in the UFC could you point to as a guy that says, "Here is a perfect example of somebody who doesn't go wild but certainly pursues the fight the entire time."
B.J. Penn: Well I was gonna say Nick Diaz but I'm a fan of someone like Nick Diaz because he goes out there and tries to fight to finish. Yeah, Nick Diaz would be one of them just right off the top of my head. Who else is there?
Luke Thomas: Anybody at heavyweight or light heavyweight?
B.J. Penn: Yeah, Cain Velasquez looks like he's been going for it lately. Who else has been going for it? You know, there's a bunch. The lightweights look like they've been going for it. The Leonard Garcias, the Nam Phans. There's still a bunch of guys. It's mostly, what it ends up being, it's mostly with the wrestler boxer type that pushes guys into the fence and holds them down and has no interest whatsoever but letting the judges say who wins the fight. I think all we gotta do it sit down and watch one UFC and we can just point them out from a mile.
Luke Thomas: Last question before we let you go B.J. and we really appreciate your time. Let's say you do win on Saturday, if you finish Nick Diaz versus winning a decision over him, does that in any way impact your negotiating stance with the UFC for your next fight going forward?
B.J. Penn: You know what, I've got one fight left on my contract after this. I don't know what the UFC's gonna do. We're just gonna have to sit down and wait and see what happens.