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BJ Penn: I don’t want to let the sport pass me by

At 31, Penn believes he’s only now entering the prime of his storied career

B.J. Penn has spent the better part of his nine-year mixed-martial-arts career at the absolute top.

If the younger athletes flooding into the sport are to take that position away from him, he's not going to give it up without a fight.

"I'm the guy that doesn't want to let the sport pass me by," said Penn, during a conference call Thursday. "I want to stay at the forefront of this whole thing.

"I'm constantly thinking about how to tweak little areas to keep up with these young kids."

Penn will look to re-establish himself as the No. 1 lightweight in the world later this month, when he meets UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar at UFC 118 in Boston.

Edgar (12-1) scored a shocking, unanimous-decision win over Penn (15-6-1) on April 10 at UFC 112.

The loss served as a "wake-up call" for Penn, 31, who believes he's only now entering the prime of his career.

"Every time you get a loss, you take a different path and get back on your journey," Penn said. "I believe if I had won that fight I would have changed nothing about my game.

"I definitely think this (is the prime of my career). I'm 31. I have tons of experience. I'm not looking past Frankie, but I think I'm about to go on a run."

Considering everything Penn has accomplished in the sport, it's easy to think of him more as a fighter entering the twilight of his career than one in his prime.

His first professional fight was in 2001 and he remains one of only two fighters to have won a UFC title in two weight classes. But Penn is either the same age or younger than many fighters he might be perceived to be older than.

He is younger than Brandon Vera, Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar and is the same age as guys like Gray Maynard, Urijah Faber and Jake Shields.

To think that one of the most decorated fighters in UFC history is on the verge of entering the best years of his career is a scary thought — and it appears Penn is intent on adding to his legacy.

"The loss to Frankie made me step back and realize I want to fight as much as I can," Penn said. "After the fight with Frankie, I want to fight the next month or the next week.

"I don't know if my biological clock is ticking or what, but I want to fight as much as possible. I want to make a push to be a true fighter, and I think I could be very active."

Other than the loss to Edgar, Penn almost has completed his run through the 155-pound division.

It's clear Penn hopes to move back up to welterweight — where he also previously held the title belt — if he's able to avenge his most recent loss later this month.

That said, Penn is aware there always will be be challenges awaiting him in both weight classes.

"It's one of those wait and see until after this fight," Penn said. "There's always much to accomplish anywhere. Even if you do clean out a division and go to welterweight, there's going to be a new Frankie. There's always going to be another one popping up."

Perhaps another reason Penn appears to be older than his 31 years is that he's certainly had the type of experiences that add up to 101 in mixed-martial-arts years.

He still remembers first entering the sport thinking he'd never lose a single fight.

"I thought I was God's gift to fighting," Penn said. "I thought I would go 100-0 with 100 knockouts. When I sit back and look at my record, I can't believe I have six losses. It just blows me away.

"No one is untouchable — and if they are, they just haven't run into the right guy yet."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at LVSunFighting

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