BJ Penn: “Edgar the only reason I’m coming back”

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There are no doubts about it now – ‘The Prodigy’ is back. It was announced late last year that B.J. Penn would be coaching an upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter alongside long-time rival Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar.

With Season 19 set to premiere in April, the two coaches will square off in a featherweight fight in the show’s finale in July.

The pair first fought in April 2010 at UFC 112 with Penn’s lightweight title on the line. Edgar won by unanimous decision and would go on to repeat the result in their rematch at UFC 118.

After losing his last fight against Rory McDonald at UFC on Fox 5 in December 2012, Penn underwent an indefinite hiatus from fighting. The upcoming bout with Edgar will mark Penn’s debut at featherweight.

The former lightweight champion was recently in Sydney to help promote an anti-bullying campaign. He sat down with The Roar to discuss the project, his hiatus and his plans for the future.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the BRAVE project.
A: (The UFC fighters) were called down to do the BRAVE project because of the bullying and the different things that have been going on in Australia. And the BRAVE project is fighting against bullying, punks, thugs, gangsters and that type of element.

Q: Were you ever bullied yourself growing up?
A: I believe everyone gets bullied in their life, whether it’s in some form or another. You know, it’s not an age thing, some people can get bullied up to my age too. Unfortunately bullies are a part of life and they need to be dealt with at the end of the day.

Q: You’ve been on hiatus since the Rory McDonald fight – what did you do during that time?
A: After the fight I just did yard work and farming, hanging out, raising my kids. Trying to live a regular life because I have always lived an up and down life, always involved in sports. So I just tried to be a normal human being for the last two years.

Q: How did the opportunity to coach TUF opposite Frankie Edgar come about?
A: I was lying down when I saw that the (lightweight) title had changed hands in the UFC and I called Dana White. I said ‘What do you think about me and Benson Henderson?’ and he got back to me and said ‘Why do you want to fight him?’.

I said because when I beat him Frankie has to fight me. He said ‘holy s***, well done’. He said ‘You want to do it, you want to do 145? (Urijah Faber) is at 135 and he’s going to be fighting for a title soon. You want the 135-pound title shot?’.

I said ‘Dana that’s all I want. Let me fight Frankie Edgar. It’s the only reason why I’m coming back’.

Q: You’re now set to face Edgar in the finale in July. Do you think the time off will affect you at all?
A: I think the time off was the best thing for me. I’ve been doing this for so long it’s almost like it’s monotonous and so repetitive that sometimes you want to shy away from it. Now is the time, I feel like it’s my time!

A: It’s still early for fight camp but have you been training already?
Q: All I do is train

Q: Will you be doing anything different for strength and conditioning, given that this is your first fight at featherweight?
A: I have to keep what I’m bringing to the table now (a secret), it will make the fight very competitive. I think GSP said it best, you don’t want to show all your cards before the fight. But Frankie sure should know that I’m going to be ready.

Q: Will you look to campaign at featherweight after this fight? Move back to lightweight?
A: This is a question that keeps coming up, are you going to stay around featherweight to get the belt? I honestly believe that’s the best decision for me. I just need to fight with Frankie first and see how everything evolves from that point.

Q: What are your thoughts on the recent TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) ban in the UFC?
A: I think that’s the best thing that could have ever happened to the sport. You know, right now I would be a great candidate for TRT because of my age. Because everybody knows I have no problem with testosterone, that’s the last problem I’d ever have.

But from an age standpoint I’m sure I could qualify for TRT, would that be right? No that would be wrong. It’s wrong for me to fight a 20 year-old kid who has no experience and then I try to make myself young like him.

I don’t think that’s the way sport should be played.

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