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B.J. Penn says goal is same as ever - win titles

Despite recent setbacks, Penn still looking to be crowned welterweight and lightweight champion

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Gregory Payan / AP

Frankie Edgar, right, in action trading punches against B.J. Penn during their lightweight title fight on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010, at the TD Garden in Boston. Edgar retained his title via unanimous decision.

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After suffering the second of consecutive losses to Frankie Edgar in August, B.J. Penn says he returned to his home in Hilo, Hawaii, and spent some time outside the gym.

According to the former lightweight and welterweight champion, even though he took off only a few days, he didn't know what to do with himself.

"I think what keeps me motivated is I don't want to go in the bar and drink," said Penn, during a recent conference call. "When I got home after (UFC 118) there were a couple days I just hung out and didn't have anything to do.

"I drove around the town one day and was like, 'Man, there's nothing to do. I would rather be training to fight in the octagon.' You know, this is the only thing that keeps me feeling like I have something to live for."

While Penn's (15-7-1) training, or lack thereof, always remains a topic of debate, the former two-division champion says he's well-prepared for Saturday's welterweight fight against Matt Hughes (45-7) on the UFC 123 event in Detroit.

As for the back-to-back losses to Edgar, Penn said he's training harder than ever recently but doesn't blame a lack of conditioning for coming up short in those fights.

"I started running again and doing roadwork and trying to push my different energy systems," Penn said. "But that's not the only reason why the fight went the way it did.

"You've got to improve everything with your boxing and takedowns and wrestling. It is what it is."

Prior to losing to Edgar in August, the 31-year-old Penn had said he felt in the prime of his career and was ready to take back the belt he lost to Edgar in April.

The statements made Penn's lackluster performance all the more puzzling, as he clearly was outmatched by Edgar and even "broke" in the middle of the fight, according to UFC president Dana White.

The recent setback has done nothing to dampen Penn's goals, however, as said he'd still like to reclaim the welterweight belt he last held in 2004 — and even drop back down to 155 to hold the lightweight title again.

"I think it's very premature to be talking about a title fight," said Penn, in regard to his standing at 170 pounds. "But I know I've always had a goal to be a welterweight champion again and I wouldn't mind being the lightweight champion again."

Looking to bounce back from back-to-back losses for only the second time in his career, Penn faces a tough task in the surprisingly resurgent Matt Hughes.

After going through a stretch in which he lost three of four fights from November 2006 to June 2008, Hughes has won three straight fights — and looked terrific doing so.

The 37-year-old legend credits the run to a change in mentality during the past two years, which he says has made him feel no pressure to perform anymore because of all he's accomplished.

"I'm going out there and having a good time," Hughes said. "I've tried to cut all the pressure away. I'm not going out there trying not to lose. I'm actually going out there trying to win.

"The way I see it, I'm set. I've never been a guy to chase the record books, and I really don't care to hold any more records. I'm just ready to go out and have a good time and still compete. I love to compete."

It seems as though the two former champions have that in common.

Both admitted they were extremely happy to hear they would get the opportunity to complete their trilogy against one another. The series currently stands at 1-1.

Although Hughes had suggested he would spend the end of the year hunting instead of fighting, he said he jumped at the chance to fight Penn a third time.

And for Penn, considering he was coming off consecutive losses and changing weight classes, the matchup was a "gift."

"I probably would have accepted anyone Dana offered me," Penn said. "But in offering Matt, he kind of offered me a gift because I always hoped me and Matt would go again.

"As soon as Dana gave me that text that said, 'You want to take a fight with Matt Hughes?' I started shaking all over. I was like, 'I've got a reason to live for a couple more months.'"

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

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