First Rate Boxing sat down with BJ Penn after a recent training session in Costa Mesa, CA as he gets ready for his return to the UFC Octagon on January 17th in Phoenix, Arizona. The hall of fame MMA fighter talks camp and title belt aspirations.
How is training camp going?
I’ve been in California training at the RVCA gym – I’ve done a lot of camps out of here. Sparing is going great, we’re really standing in front of people a lot now. Back in the day we used to avoid sparing here and there, [now] I’m enjoying it, I’m enjoying standing in front of people. I like the training.
You came back to Jason Parillo for this camp, tell us more about that.
I don’t care what anyone says, I’m glad that Jason and I are together. Me and him have made some major gains in the last few months. We’ve been there, me and Parillo, we know what it’s like. We’ve been at the top and we’ve been at the bottom, we’ve been in both areas. It’s just a real comfortable place for me. With me and Parillo, it really is hard because we’re actually friends, you don’t see him hang with his other fighters as much as he hangs out with me outside the gym. That’s what makes it hard , but at this age, 38 it’s like, easily we know how to put friendships on the side and just focus on business. Just take care of business man we know that window is about this big [gestures small size] – so small now.
Yair Rodgriguez is taller than you, do you think his reach advantage is going to be a factor? You’ve never faced a fighter who’s strong point is Taekwondo, is it going to cause any interruptions in your style?
You know what, this is a different type of fighter but when I look at really, really good martial artists you gotta think outside the box. It’s almost like you’re fighting a street fighter because they’re not normal orthodox fighters. They’re not going to throw the one-two down the pipe. It seems like they’re fighting wild but but there’s a method to their madness when you fight marital artists that’s not going to be doing the same martial arts as you. We got in a lot of things that we have been preparing for this fight and we’re trying to stay strong, keep our form. We brought in Alex Caceres – he actually just fought Yair, a fight that I think he won. We’re moving around with Alex and I told him, ‘man you’re not leaving my side’, I know he’s a busy man, but you know, when you got a guy thats so similar and you get to use him as a sparing partner it’s just such a great advantage to you. And I’m just so happy that he fought the guy in his last fight and did very, very well. Just blessed with how everything is coming together you know it’s just…I don’t know, it’s our turn; it’s our time, our time will come again.
Do you have your sights set on getting the title back around you waist?
Coming back, on the humble side, you’re just trying to prove yourself and get back in there. I gotta prove it to myself, to my old fans, to my critics, and I gotta prove it to my opponent that I belong in there. I do realize I have to do all of those things but on the big side of me, the big picture guy, the daydreamer of course I’m coming back for the belt. I would love to be able to get the three belts and all of those things but right now I’m just keeping my feet on the ground, going in doing my daily work, and sparring. Parillo lets me know the night before, ‘hey man, you’re sparring’ cuz he wants me to sleep with that in my head. You know what, you’re going sparing tomorrow, no getting out of this, and I want you to control yourself, control your emotions. That’s what I like about Parillo; before me and him used to argue about that stuff and know it’s like ‘ok, I understand, I understand, I like it. So it’s all just coming together. I’m coming for a title run, of course. Anybody in here, if Bruce were in here with me, I’m going to look at him, he’s going to look at me ‘BJ, I’m coming for a title run motherfucker’. You know what I mean, that’s all of us.
You talked about how you’ve incorporated hitting the speed bag a lot in this camp. Why is that?
I know I’m fighting a very fast opponent, so I’m definitely getting ready for his hand speed and making sure I’m keeping my hands up. I’m happy this speed bag is here at RVCA and that it’s one of First Rate Boxing’s awesome platforms.
So the speed bag has helped with your conditioning and hand speed?
No doubt. No doubt, absolutely. Like I was saying the RVCA training facility has the First Rate Boxing speed bag platform and its such a great piece of equipment. It makes a world of difference when hitting a speed bag. All of the other speed bag platforms that I have hit throughout my career or have seen have just been junk (laughs) and poorly designed. The wood vibrates like crazy or you can’t adjust them to your right height, which really takes away the purpose of hitting the speed bag. Hitting a speed bag help condition your shoulders so that you can keep your hands up so you don’t get caught with a kick or a punch to the head that could end your night very quickly. It also helps with your speed for sure. I’m happy that a friend of mine Jeff Crawford and his company First Rate Boxing made such an incredible product and that it is a part of my training routine.