BJ Penn on Reflects on His Career and Retirement

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Are you done? Are you done fighting 100%? I'm done. You're done? I'm done 100%. And it was hard for me to get out after being in there for 20 years. That's your identity. Yeah. You know? And then I just kind of got into trying to be a father, you know? And I was doing that thing, trying to be around more. And then all this stuff happened. And I find myself in here. But I do think all the blood, all the tears, all the sweat, all the ups and downs, all the good media, all the bad media, all of that was to prepare me for this kind of. I see everything that they're going to throw at me, I can kind of see, well, I could have been through that. Yeah. Yeah. The mental warfare. Mental warfare that a fighter has to go through. My God. Nothing like it in all sports. And when I first got it, decided to get into this, I was like, I was just retired. So I wasn't trying to keep my everything perfect in public. And I was just running around trying to... I was just a guy trying to come off of a 20-year journey of being the baddest man on the planet. And then, so it was tough. It was really tough to get over that identity. So as time went, I was just living my life, some more ups and downs. I say, sometimes I was judged fairly, other times I wasn't. Well, BJ, when you were on top, you were one of the baddest motherfuckers on earth. You really were. You were a guy who went all the way up to heavyweight to fight Leota Machida. I remember that fight. You did some wild shit, dude. And you were strangling a lot of fucking people, man. And for Jujitsu guys, like for all my Jujitsu guys, you were the fucking man. Because you were a smaller guy who choked out Matt Hughes, who was so fucking good at the time, man. And Matt Hughes was a tank. When you got his back and choked him, everybody's like, oh, shit. Jujitsu's back. People forgot. They forgot those times, BJ. And there was a run like the Sean Shirk days, Diego Sanchez days. You were a scary motherfucker, dude. You were a scary motherfucker. You were tuned in. When you were tuned in, man, you were something fierce. I always tell people, you have to judge a fighter by the heights they reached, not where they fell afterwards or the up and coming fights. You got to judge them by the heights that they reached. Like a guy like Olivera, he's a great example. He's had some losses. He's been knocked out. You got to judge him by the height that he's at now. 100%. You got to be accurate. And then maybe he can only sustain that for a few years. Like Fedor could only sustain it for a few years at the tippity-topper performance. Yes. But you got to judge him from that. Yeah. It makes me sick when people judge them by their worst performances. For you, your best performances were spectacular. You had some crushing performances. When you were training with Mariniovic, and they got you in tiptoe-magoo shape, dude, you were terrifying when you had that crazy gas tank. Man, I loved it. One of the Mariniovic... Wait, what's Mariniovic's... Marv. Yeah, Marv passed away. But Gary's at my house in Hawaii right now. He's training some football teams or something, and he has to come down, and it's great to have... How did that connection happen? Because they basically changed the way you did strength and conditioning, right? Yes. How did this introduction happen? My brother meant... How did I run into them? I forget how I... Exactly. But I think my brother introduced me to them, and when they... They were just geniuses, man. And no matter how good you are, they were 50 years ahead. I remember we were at UCLA or something, and they had that... A little cone pattern, and they had me run it to see my agility, and Marv said, well, that's too slow. And the lady said, well, how do you know? And he said, because I made it up. These guys were just ahead of everybody, man. They were the guys with the NFL Combine, and everything was speed, because he noticed that the strongest guys who had the strongest squad, the biggest bench press, and all that, they had the lowest numbers on the field. And then that's how we started to put in the agility, the speed, the movement, the reflexes, and going back... So they were really ahead of their time. Yeah, it was wild to watch, man. They looked like they were torturing you. You know what? Looking back now, I see everybody, and I look at them all, all, who eats the most at the buffet, the hungriest one? And that's the whole thing, no matter what. I'll look, and I'll just be like, is he still hungry? That's the only question, or does he still want to eat as much? Because literally, a lot of these guys, they haven't eaten filet mignon before. They haven't eaten lobster, and they're still thinking about what that's going to taste like when they finally get the opportunity to buy that for their family. Yeah, there's a balance of how long you can maintain that hunger. How long can you maintain that ferocity? Yeah, it has nothing to do with who's the best. It's who wants it the most. That's what it is. That's what I thought about. I knew that about martial arts. You go in there, and you be right as quick and as violent and as intimidating as possible when you get in there. But believe me, I believe, just like me, even at my best, I'm like, what can I do to make the referee stop this? How can I make the referee stop this thing? Because you're nervous, the hero and the coward, they're both scared, but the hero's going to step forward. Yeah, you were a wild motherfucker in your prime, brother. You were a wild motherfucker. You were fun to watch. The Dean Thomas fight, there was a lot of fights that were like, holy shit. Nothing else mattered to me in my life at that time than being the toughest and most skilled martial artist on the planet. And just fighter, I didn't consider myself a martial artist, I just thought of myself as a fighter. I'll beat you up. You were certainly doing that, man. So when did you did you continue that kind of strength and conditioning routine or did you stop doing it after a while? People start to fall apart and different ideas and coaches start to fight with each other and that's what happened with that stuff. Marv kind of went his own way because as you get six weeks out from the fight, your boxing coach is screaming, he's got a spar. He's got a spar. And then the other guy's like, no, this is enough. And they start going and then it has a reaction on you. Let's explain it to everybody because this is the philosophy, the two different philosophies. The Marinovich's believe that you already know how to fight. All you need to do is just get in ridiculous condition. And so they were just going to put you through that. And what did you do? Like light drills other than that, like hitting pads, like what kind of stuff did you do? But no sparring, right? Maybe not even pads, just different things, speed, a lot of good stuff. We do ladders. We would do that water workout stuff. And they thought that that was more important than anything. Yes, and it was very important. I will never say that it wasn't, you know. And then on the other side, it's the same. People say, do you coach, do you train? I say no, but if I did, I'll tell you what I would do. I would show up to the gym. I'd tell another coach that had his fighter and I would say, hey, coach, can my boy get a couple rounds with your boy tomorrow? And then I'd look at my guy and go kick his ass tomorrow. And then I'd leave him and make him go home and think about it all night. Because the physical act of fighting, that ain't a fight. It's the going home and thinking about it all night long. Anybody can get into a fight real quick in school, but when they say meet me at the park after and the whole school shows up, now that's the fight, you know? Or I'll meet you in four months, you know, like for a UFC card. Right, isn't that amazing? That's when it gets wild, right? When you're planning these fights months out and everybody gets to know that it's coming. Yes, but that's it, sleeping with that. That's what it's all about, sleeping with it, controlling it, internalizing it.