Bouncing back up to the welterweight division isn’t the only change BJ Penn will be making after dropping his last two fights at 155-pounds. The Hawaiian will also have new faces in his corner at UFC 123 as he looks to end his trilogy with Matt Hughes on a winning note.
“We’re just trying to get a different look, just going with some different ideas. We all still train together,” Penn told MMAFighting.com. “I’ve actually trained with both [Rudy Valentino and Jason Parillo] while preparing for this fight, but up here – as far as the corner goes – we got different ideas.
“We got a different gameplan. Our last two fights didn’t go the way we wanted and we’re all in agreement that we wanna put something together and get a victory.”
When asked if he swapped the MMA masterminds in favor of his entourage mainstays Troy Mandaloniz and Justin McCully, Penn made it appear as though the change wasn’t nearly as significant as most insiders are making it out to be.
“Yes, they’ll be there Saturday night,” Penn matter-of-factly replied.
Following his second consecutive convincing defeat to Frankie Edgar, Penn was left to ponder what direction his illustrious career would head in next – or if it would even resume at all. It’s an interesting cornering move considering the 31-year-old faces a near must-win situation.
Thankfully, UFC president Dana White quickly piqued the former lightweight and welterweight champion’s interests by offering up the Hall of Famer Hughes.
“I was waiting to fight anyone they offered, I wanted to get back on top. [Dana] offered [Kenny] Florian, but Florian was injured I think and then he said, ‘I got a fight for you,'” Penn recalls of his conversation with his boss. “I said, ‘Who?’ I was waiting for a lightweight name. He said, ‘Hughes’ and turned my world upside down. I was just like, ‘What? Matt Hughes? Let’s go. Let’s do it!'”
Although the reception for their rubber match has been lukewarm, Penn claims pay-per-view purchasers will be in for a treat come Saturday.
“I think Hughes brings something special out of me,” stated Penn. “I actually don’t think it’ll make Matt happy to see me back.”
UFC 123 takes place Saturday inside The Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, Michigan.