Former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion BJ Penn has hooked up to do some training with boxing's Floyd Mayweather Sr. FightHype caught up with Mayweather, who let them know exactly how his time with Penn was going:
"I’ll be honest, at first, it didn’t seem like he could fight that good. I mean, I don’t know about his ground game and all of that stuff, but he’s got some pop and in just the three days I’ve been working with him, he has improved, man."
"I work with a couple now (MMA fighters) and I'm all for it. I don't know [expletive] about that ground stuff, but I can get their defense tight and get them throwing their shots right. I got B.J. working something just for a taller opponent. I don't know what B.J.'s ground game is like at all, but if he uses what I'm showing, he won't need it."
"I bet he ain't going back to [Freddie Roach] either. He worked with Freddie 'The Joke Coach' Roach, and he telling me he has never see the stuff I'm showing him. So what does that tell you? Man, the only thing Freddie Roach can do better than me is wash my car."
BJ Penn seeking to further improve his boxing is a scary thought in and of itself, especially when one considers that Penn just starched Matt Hughes in 21 seconds with a brutal combo that shut Hughes' lights off. Penn is set to face welterweight contender Jon Fitch at UFC 127 in Australia, and with a wrestling game like Fitch's, one has to wonder if Penn spending two weeks with Mayweather Sr. is time well spent. UFC 127 takes place February 27th, and time management for a fight camp is crucial. Fitch's wrestling and Penn's takedown defense are the two greatest variables going into this match. It's hard to point at Penn's second match with welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and say that wrestling is how to beat Penn, when GSP's wrestling is arguably the best in MMA today.
Is Fitch's MMA wrestling as good as GSP's, or at least good enough to edge out BJ Penn? We don't know, and that's what makes this fight so intriguing. Fitch is definitely one of the best fighters in the welterweight division, his dominating style, although often criticized, is a winning style. Can Penn avoid being held down, and let his hands fly? We'll find out next month.
On a broader note, it's fascinating that mixed martial artists are just now hooking up with world class boxing trainers. Penn is considered one of the best boxers in MMA, and he's only spent a short amount of time working with boxing coaches that are on a world class level. This is the beauty of mixed martial arts, as new generations come into the sport, they'll start where the champions of today finish.
It was not long ago that cross training became the norm in this sport, now, instead of fighters growing up with just one style as a base, there's kids in schools across the globe who wrestle, take Brazilian jiu jitsu, and taking muay thai from a very young age and onward. The natural evolution of the sport excites me as a fan, and trainers like Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Freddie Roach working with some of the sports' biggest names is a sign of great things to come.