BJ Penn

Chris Fleck
Wednesday - November 23, 2011
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BJ Penn. Photo by Yu Shing Ting

BJ Penn announced his retirement ...

Wait, wait, not so fast.

Although the former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion just took a loss, he is in no way counting out a return to fighting. After declaring he was finished fighting after an Oct. 30 loss to Nick Diaz, Penn now wants to take his time before stepping back into the octagon, his second home for the past 10 years.

“There is always that push and pull. I am kind of stepping away for a bit because I want to let that hunger build. No matter what type of training or no matter what else you are doing, the only thing that is going to make you mentally tough is that hunger,” says Penn.

The Hilo native caught fire in the up-and-coming sport of Mixed Martial Arts fighting in the early 2000s, just after becoming the first non-Brazilian to win the world jiu-jitsu championship. Nicknamed “The Prodigy,” Penn has never wavered at the thought of a fight or fighter. He has made a reputation for himself taking on opponents in higher weight divisions, and he knows that his philosophies and motivation are the reasons he has had such a successful career.

“I now realize I got involved in the sport of MMA because I wanted to be the baddest man on the planet. You can’t get involved because you want to train hard or you may like this style of fighting or that. I got involved because I wanted to get to the top,” says Penn, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover April 6, 2007.

With a UFC fighting legacy that is legend, Penn is now concentrating on other aspects of his career, taking on the title of chief operating officer of the UFC Gym in Honolulu (located at the former Pipeline Cafe building), which is set to open in spring 2012.

“UFC was talking about doing some signature gyms, and they called me,” he says. “We knew it was going to materialize, but it just took some time. When I saw how professional everything was, I was really impressed. We’ve been going back and forth putting our ideas together.”

Aside from fighting and the gym, Penn likes to live life casually, spending his down time in the ocean or with his 3-year-old daughter Avea.

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