David Maialetti / Philadelphia Daily News
Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009 | midnight
- What’s next for Silva?
- Penn delivers encore performance
- Champs put on dominant display at UFC 101
- Tale of the Tape: Breakdown & Picks
- Fighters, Philadelphia fans weigh in
- Breaking down UFC 101: Penn vs. Florian
- The new and improved Kenny Florian
- Even champions need comebacks sometimes
- Breaking down UFC 101: Silva vs. Griffin
- Griffin returns to comfortable role as underdog
- Silva already putting on a show
- Road Blog from Philly
- Fighter says struggles only made him stronger
- Las Vegas fighter will battle in home state at UFC 101
- All-Star Victorino welcomes UFC to Philadelphia
- Philly native pumped for UFC's first event in hometown
- Complete UFC 101 coverage
PHILADELPHIA — B.J. Penn is hoping he still recognizes his daughter the next time he sees her.
As all parents know, children grow up pretty quickly.
That is why of all the challenges Penn faces this week — traveling to Philadelphia, putting an ugly loss to Georges St. Pierre behind him, fighting to defend his UFC lightweight championship — not seeing his 10-month-old daughter, Aeva, has been the most difficult.
"I miss my daughter. I want to see her," Penn said. "I sacrifice a lot in different areas, and I don't feel all these other distractions that everybody always talks about. The worst thing for me is I can't be around my daughter before a fight because it softens me up. It turns me into a wimp."
Penn said the last time he saw his daughter was two months ago. That's when he made the decision to stop seeing her and start toughening up for his UFC 101 showdown with top contender Kenny Florian on Aug. 8 at the Wachovia Center.
Defending champions are usually coming off wins, not losses. Penn, however, is coming off what was probably the most deflating performance of his career, a referee-stoppage loss to St. Pierre in their superfight in January.
To make matters worse, Penn was involved in "Greasegate," the well-documented allegations that GSP had illegally applied Vaseline to his back in between rounds during their bout at the MGM Grand. In the aftermath of those criticisms, it became clear that many UFC fans around the world had pulled their support from the Hawaiian.
"That's definitely a motivating factor for me in this fight," said Penn, who sports a career MMA mark of 13-5-1. "After a fighter loses, he wants to come back to show everybody that he's not just back, he's better and ready to take on new challenges — and beat them."
Even the challenger Florian said he recognizes how vital it is that Penn bounce back in a big way following what he described as, "one of the worst losses in history."
"I think the pressure is all on him," said Florian (13-3 overall MMA mark), who is coming off sixth straight victories — including a first-round destruction of Joe "Daddy" Stevenson at UFC 91 in November.
"Not only does he need to win, he needs to win convincingly to get back that legion of fans that he lost after his last fight."
That is why it might be safe to say we are seeing the most dedicated Penn ever. In addition to sacrificing time with his daughter, the 30-year-old Hawaiin is taking every precaution to make sure he's at his absolute best on fight night.
After arriving in Philadelphia exactly one week before the fight, Penn wouldn't even go sightseeing because of the energy he'd have to expend.
"We've been pretty much relaxing at the house, eating healthy food, watching a lot of movies," said Penn's brother J.D., who helps manage his career. "We would love to check out Philadelphia, but there's a lot of energy that goes into that. We're in the calm before the storm right now."
Winning championships in two different weight classes has been accomplished by only two fighters in UFC history: Randy Couture and Penn.
Despite that, Penn knows that he's fighting to preserve a legacy that took a substantial hit during the four one-sided rounds he last suffered in the Octagon.
While Penn still wishes that fight would have turned out differently, there's no question he'll look to use it as a spark in this one.
As much as he hopes he'll recognize Aeva when he sees her, he wants to come back to his daughter the same way he left her — a UFC champion.
"Everything that happened is now motivating me for this fight," Penn said. "All the stuff that went on in the past, it's just motivation. If I had blown through that fight, there would have been a lack of motivation for this one. But as we stand here right now, there's no lack of motivation."