Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | 8 a.m.
Sun Special Section
B.J. Penn hears what they’ve been saying about him.
During a conference call Tuesday for his upcoming fight against Kenny Florian at UFC 101 on Aug. 8 in Philadelphia, Penn didn’t come out and specifically admit he follows himself in headlines.
But it was pretty obvious that’s the case.
“I’ll do the media I’m contracted under for the UFC but I didn’t like how the media portrayed me after the (Georges St. Pierre) fight,” Penn said during a conference call Tuesday. “That’s just how it is. I don’t like how you guys portrayed me and I’m done working with you guys.”
What Penn is referring to is the bad press he received following his rematch with the UFC welterweight champion in January.
After losing the fight when the referee stopped it after the fourth round, Penn filed a complaint to the Nevada State Athletic Commission that St. Pierre’s team had illegally rubbed Vaseline on his back between rounds.
Despite quickly falling under the label of a poor sport, Penn continued with the allegations, claiming it was something he had been tipped off to even before the fight.
“You didn’t want to report on anything else — that we warned the commission to it before the fight,” Penn told the media members on the call. “You didn’t want to report on anything. But whatever. I’m done with you guys.”
With the whole fiasco somewhat behind him now, Penn says he’s ready to make his title fight with Florian drama-free and repeated several times that his focus is simply on winning.
“I just want to get back in the ring and perform,” he said. “I’m not sitting here thinking about how to hype this thing up. I just want to get in the ring and do what I do best.”
It’s been harder than it sounds.
Ironically, according to Penn, it was Florian who provided the tip that St. Pierre was a “greaser” through a text message sent to a writer working on a book about Penn at the time.
Florian has denied the story.
“What I was talking about was Roger Huerta. I had no idea what GSP does; I had never trained with him at that point,” Florian said during the call. “I wanted to tell B.J. good luck. It had nothing to do with GSP. It had to do with Huerta.”
“So the conversation was tell B.J. good luck, by the way Roger is a greaser,” shot back Penn.
“We were talking about Roger, then he said he was writing a book about you,” replied Florian.
Minus the quick back-and-forth, it’s clear that Penn has been making an effort to downplay animosity towards Florian and focus on what will happen inside the Octagon, not out, for UFC 101.
From a physical standpoint, he’s brought in strength and conditioning coach Marv Marinovich after appearing winded during UFC 94.
Judging from his responses, it may seem Penn was defensive and irritated throughout the call, however, he was in a good mood and answered all questions.
More than anything, he gave the impression of a fighter hoping to move forward and ditch the recent string of bad headlines.
“That text message Florian sent, that’s small stuff,” he said. “We’ve got to go in and fight for the championship of the world. The rest is small stuff. I don’t know how I get caught up in it all. It’s unbelievable. When I step in the ring, of course, I think I'm a different fighter than last time, but the thing I have to do is show everybody else that. On Aug. 8, they'll see what B.J. Penn is all about.”
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.