x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Penn finds the lights just right

BJ Penn, having drifted between weight divisions for the majority of his UFC career, has finally found himself at home in the lightweight category.

ABU DHABI // BJ Penn, having drifted between weight divisions for the majority of his UFC career, has finally found a home. In a well-matched lightweight division, the Hawaiian has blitzed through three title defences and established himself as the undisputed champion. But rumours of a return to welterweight, a division Penn ruled in 2004, have refused to subside. If not for the size advantage enjoyed by that division's reigning champion, Georges St Pierre, Penn may already have stepped up, again.

St Pierre has beaten Penn twice at welterweight and a third bout is unlikely. So Penn, comfortable at lightweight but built for welterweight, needs to be content with the smaller prize. Size, however, will be on Penn's side when he faces his No 1 challenger, Frankie Edgar, at UFC112: Invincible on Saturday. "I think this fight is a good opportunity for me to use my size against somebody," said Penn.

"Edgar's great, he does a lot of good things, but it's nice knowing I'll be the bigger man walking into the ring. He might be a little heavier, but I'll have the bigger frame." Not that Penn is taking the New Jersey challenger lightly. "I don't really worry about the underdog stuff," he said. "It's going to be a fight and my chin doesn't know he's the underdog - I have to be ready. He's going to come and try a lot of scrambles - he'll be slippery.

"I'm going out and I'll try to jab him with anything I can hit him with. Frankie's good and he'll make adjustments though I can't go in there with just one game plan." Should Penn, the favourite, defeat Edgar, he will not parade his belt. "I never really think about the belt anymore. I never carry it with me or walk in with it," he confessed. A blunt admission from a man with bigger challenges ahead. emegson@thenational.ae