B.J. Penn is considered by many to be the greatest lightweight in MMA history.
At this time last year, the 32-year-old former UFC lightweight champion was thought unbeatable at 155-pounds. Having dominated most of the top lightweight contenders including Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian, and Diego Sanchez, many fans were left wondering where his next challenge could come from.
Conventional wisdom asserted that it would certainly not come from scrappy, but diminutive lightweight Frankie Edgar, who was pegged to be next on Penn's chopping block. In fact, many believed Edgar to be unworthy of the fight altogether.
However, after losing a razor thin controversial decision against Edgar UFC 112 in March of 2010, and then being dominated in a subsequent fight against him four months later at UFC 118, Penn found himself at a crossroads.
No longer the immovable object and irresistible force at lightweight, Penn decided to stop worrying about losing and start having fun again. A lesson he picked up when when he began training jiu-jitsu as a teenager.
"I was just having fun," Penn said about his early training. "I was a kid, enjoying myself, just loving the art. I would either be not doing much or just training jiu-jitsu. And then the jiu-jitsu just came so fast and before I knew it I was doing private lessons and teaching and I got really involved with jiu-jitsu. It was fun. It was no work, no discipline, just pure fun."
It was a strategy that worked wonders for the Hawaiian native as Penn became not only the fastest non-Brazilian to earn his black belt, at an unheard of three years (the average is 10-12 years), he also became the first ever non-Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion just two weeks after earning his black belt.
Penn aims to inject the fun of his youth back into his training and his career.
"We train really hard," Penn said. "I train three times a day. It's work sometimes, but I try to keep it fun as much as possible. I train three times a day, three days a week, and then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday I do light physical activity just to flush my body of lactic acid."
After his second loss to Edgar, Penn also decided reinvigorate his career by taking big fights that interested and motivated him. He moved back up to welterweight, where he once held the UFC title, to challenge fellow former UFC welterweight champion and longtime personal rival Matt Hughes.
Penn dominated the fight, knocking out the legendary Hughes in just 21 seconds of the first round - only 9:39 seconds shorter than it took him to sign on to face his next challenge against highly regarded UFC welterweight contender Jon Fitch.
"I would say about 10 minutes after the Matt Hughes fight, I took the Fitch fight, Penn said. "Dana walked into the locker room and we got the deal done. I wouldn't think it would happen [that fast] too often, but Jon, I really think he's one of the best fighters, and everyone always talks so highly about him and I want to see how good he is."
"[Matt Hughes] heads down [to Hawaii] on Superbowl Sunday," Penn exclaimed. "It's going to be really good work. He basically made up the whole, 'push the guy to the fence...