Five years ago this week, B.J. Penn expressed discontent with how UFC was marketing his fight, exposing that the UFC production team pushed him to give them answers that would help hype the fight and build the idea of this being a grudge match. The following is our detailed report, a window into UFC’s manipulation (hardly a secret, of course) of fights to make them seem more personal than they might actually be.
The switch in UFC 137’s top two fights last week continues to be the major talk of the MMA world, and a new video post from B.J. Penn at his personal website is only going to add fuel to the fire.
Penn starts off discussing how the UFC brought in the countdown camera crew to film a new segment for the fight with Nick Diaz on the card, and how they goaded him into making a comment he wasn’t entirely comfortable with.
“They had to come back to film the Nick Diaz countdown,” Penn said. “One thing that was a trip about that whole thing was that, I’ve got a lot of respect for Diaz, I’ve trained with him… at the end of the whole thing, they forced me to say… ‘You gotta say Nick Diaz’s name now, you gotta say his name.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ They were like, ‘Say you’re going to beat Nick Diaz. Say you’re going to beat Nick Diaz.’ And so I said, ‘I’m going to beat Nick Diaz.'”
It’s not that he doesn’t feel confident in his ability to win this fight, but with the respect he has for Diaz and what he feels is a misunderstood situation, he sees them attempting to paint Diaz as the bad guy, and that’s not something Penn is alright with.
“I wish I would have said ‘at UFC 137 my hand is going to be raised.'” Penn lamented. “I don’t know if they’re going to come back and try to show Nick Diaz that. I don’t know what’s going on with that.
“I kind of feel for him as I was in the primetime and they made me the bad buy and made GSP the good guy. I think if Diaz had been in that primetime they would have tried to make him Mr Evil. Diaz is an intense guy, he says what is on his mind and if they edit that stuff they can really turn it round on him.”
Penn wants the fight to be sold as a fight between two top welterweights, and doesn’t see the need for any manufactured drama between the two.
“I hear so many things, that Nick is not going to do the fight and a bunch of things,” Penn said. “At the end of the day I have to do a fight at UFC 137 and I don’t want it to be built up off of BS. I am not sitting there every day saying I am going to beat Nick Diaz and ‘I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that.’
“Let’s not have it be about a bunch of BS.”
Penick’s Analysis: The UFC obviously has a narrative they’re trying to play into with the change in the UFC 137 co-main events, but Penn isn’t going to play along quietly with it. There doesn’t need to be any added animosity injected into the fight, there’s enough of a story in the craziness of the switch, along with the fact that this is just in and of itself a great welterweight fight. Hopefully we can just see them go ahead into this fight without adding any more drama where there isn’t any.