Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009 | 2 a.m.
- Main event: Georges St. Pierre (17-2 mixed martial arts) vs. B.J. Penn (13-4-1)
- At stake: UFC welterweight championship
- Time/site: Today at the MGM Grand Garden Arena; doors open, 4:15 p.m.; first bout, 4:45 p.m.
- Tickets: Sold out
- Pay-per-view: $54.95, 7 p.m.
- Closed circuit: Mandalay Bay Events Center, $50
- Featured bouts: Lyoto Machida (13-0) vs. Thiago Silva (13-0), light heavyweights; Stephan Bonnar (14-4) vs. Jon Jones (7-0), light heavyweights; Karo Parisyan (26-5) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (11-0-1), welterweights; Nate Diaz (10-2) vs. Clay Guida (24-6), lightweights
- Undercard: Jon Fitch (21-3-1) vs. Akihiro Gono (28-13-7), welterweights; Manny Gamburyan (10-4) vs. Thiago Tavares (17-3), lightweights; Chris Wilson (13-4-1) vs. John Howard (10-4), welterweights; Jake O’Brien (10-2) vs. Christian Wellisch (9-3), light heavyweights; Matt Arroyo (3-2) vs. Dan Cramer (debut), welterweights
Sun Special Section
B.J. Penn has had plenty to say in the build-up of tonight’s super fight with Georges St. Pierre at the MGM Grand.
He told the Canadian “I’m going to try to kill you” on the first episode of Spike TV’s special “UFC Primetime” countdown show.
He laughed at St. Pierre when the UFC welterweight champ told media members he uses a sports psychologist.
Even in a moment that was reserved for the cameras during Wednesday’s pose-off, Penn mumbled under his breath to St. Pierre that he cut too much weight and will be too weak to win.
While Penn admits, in part, he’s been talking more trash before this fight to try to gain a mental advantage over St. Pierre, he insists the Canadian’s camp is the one fueling the verbal fire.
“Him and his team constantly say they’re going to finish me, that they’re better than me in every aspect,” Penn said.
“They’re disrespecting my skills saying they’re going to walk through me. That’s how I’m going to beat him, because I’m going to get through his skills. He’s tough, but he’s going to be empty on the inside and I’m going to finish him.”
That’s something that Penn couldn’t do three years ago when St. Pierre beat him at UFC 58 on a split decision.
Penn won the first round that March night in 2006, but he seemed to lose steam as the fight went on. He promised conditioning won’t be a problem, even though “UFC Primetime” seemed to say otherwise with all the drama surrounding his mini vacation during his training.
"I think it's going to be the exact opposite this time," said Penn, who sports a 13-4-1 career record. "This time, it's going to be the longer the fight goes, it's going to be worse for Georges.”
But Penn said both fighters are so much more advance than three years ago, watching the replay of the fight really only serves as motivating material.
"I just look at that fight to pump myself up every once in a while," he said.
“I've lived with (that) fight and this rivalry for all these years. I accept what happened the first time. It's part of my life. Now's my chance to redeem myself."
Penn also has the opportunity to make history. A win would make the Hilo, Hawaii, native the first fighter to ever hold two belts in two different divisions at the same time.
"The history with the two titles would be great, but it's more about Georges," Penn said. "You could win the welterweight title from a less important opponent and it wouldn’t mean as much.”
But in fighting St. Pierre, Penn has to jump up 15 pounds from his dominant weight of 155.
Penn, who hasn’t had a loss or draw in six years at 155, has dropped his last two bouts at 170. But he insists not only is he in the best shape of his life, but his whole attitude toward the fighting game has changed. He’s cut out drinking and partying and dedicated himself completely to the sport.
"I definitely wasn't working as hard," Penn said of his old training regiment. "I didn't have the drive. I was just kind of inching by, and just getting through fights and getting through life.
“If there was ever a time that I have to use all of my skills that I’ve learned throughout my whole career, it’s going to be on January 31. This is the best I’ve ever been, the best I’m going to be.”
But no matter the outcome in the Octagon or all the things him and St. Pierre have said to each other, Penn promises to show the respect that he has for St. Pierre afterwards.
“A fight is a fight. Stuff happens, stuff gets said,” Penn said. “After the fight, I’ll shake his hand.”