Hilo’s Penn Starts Second Stint as “TUF” Coach
***Updated Thursday, April 17.***
B.J. Penn can’t wait to get a win against Frankie Edgar, something he couldn’t do in two tries four years ago with the UFC Lightweight Championship on the line.
Before that chance comes, fans across the globe will see how both men work as coaches in the upcoming season of the hit Ultimate Fighting Championship series “The Ultimate Fighter: Team Edgar vs. Team Penn.” The nineteenth season of the popular show debuted Wednesday.
“I’m very excited to get to see how the whole Ultimate Fighter plays out,” said Penn on Tuesday. “We filmed it a while back, back in November, and so it’s kinda just been in my mind. I wonder how it’s all gonna be.”
Penn coached against Jens Pulver during the fifth season of the show, which aired in 2007. None of his fighters reached the final bout that season, but “The Prodigy” got the last word, beating Pulver in “The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale” with a rear naked choke in the second round of their bout.
The job of a coach in the series is tough, working off of little information before choosing and training fighters. According to Penn, this year’s cast has a hard time stacking up to the group he worked with seven years ago.
“That was one thing that I thought a lot about, and I cannot just trash any of the guys on this season, because in Ultimate Fighter 5, they had so many top contenders and so many good guys come off of that show,” Penn explained. “That’s just going to be a tough show to beat, period.
“I’ve still gotta remember that these guys are still growing up into their own, you know what I mean? So, it’s tough. There’s definitely some good guys, some good solid talent that came off of this Ultimate Fighter 19.”
The payoff at the end of the series is another opportunity at Frankie Edgar. The 32-year-old featherweight got the best of Penn four years ago, defeating him at UFC 112 by unanimous decision to win the UFC lightweight title. Four months later at UFC 118, Edgar beat him again by the same result to hold on to the championship. Those two bouts still play back in the eyes of the 35-year-old Penn.
“I want to avenge my two losses to Frank Edgar and I think he wants to fight me again, Penn said. “It’s gonna be a big thing for him to be able to fight me again, so it’s good for everybody.
“I just keep replaying the moment in my head over and over. I feel that 145 pounds is a great weight class. I feel that July 6, 2014 is a great time. The first few times, Frankie couldn’t think of anything more than defeating B.J. Penn, and at the moment, I don’t have anything else to think about than fighting Frankie Edgar.”
Both UFC veterans will have to shake off some rust when they meet in Las Vegas on the TUF 19 finale. For Edgar, it will have been exactly a year after defeating Charles Olivera and winning Fight of the Night honors at UFC 162, also held in Las Vegas. The New Jersey native is 16-4-1 in his career.
Penn, with a professional record of 16-9-2, last appeared on the FOX broadcast network on Dec. 8, 2012 in a loss to Rory MacDonald by unanimous decision. The Hilo resident hasn’t won a bout since his first round, 21 second knockout of Matt Hughes at UFC 123 on Nov. 20, 2010.
Penn, a 13-year veteran of the UFC, isn’t getting any younger, and with two consecutive losses on his resume, many wonder how much is left in his decorated career.
“I think the best thing for me as of now is to go on a fight-by-fight basis,” Penn said during a radio interview. “When we were going to do this fight again, the UFC said they wanted five fights. I said ‘Dana (White), we’re old already. Three is more our speed and we’ll get through that contract.’ So, you know, we’re on a fight-to-fight basis.”
A group of 32 male fighters, evenly split between lightweight and featherweight classes, will compete against one another as part of a team that will be determined at the start of the series. Winner advance throughout the season, leading up to the finale, which will be held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.