Penn Opens up After Easy Win Over Ludwig

By Steven Curtis May 27, 2004
After bolting the UFC for K-1, “The Prodigy” still #1

Saitama, Japan: BJ Penn was loose and relaxed, and he had every reason to be. Only minutes before, he had crushed Duane “Bang!” Ludwig in one of the most eagerly awaited debuts in K-1 history. While he admitted to being “nervous” about his first fight in Japan during the post-fight press conference, now he was basking in the moment, and was along for the ride in an exclusive interview.

“After I beat Duane,” BJ said, “I told him, ‘I’m sorry; I’m the best in the world right now.” While he admitted regretting that remark – “I shouldn’t have rubbed his face in it,” he said- – who can argue with the man? With this win, hot on the heels of his submission victory over Matt Hughes at UFC 46, it’s clear that Penn is on a mission to conquer the MMA world and he won’t be denied.

“My next plan is to go to China, then Africa,” he joked.

BJ admitted that he had a little trouble convincing Zuffa & Co. over at UFC to let him take the fight at all.

“UFC was worried about what would happen if I lost,” he said, “And I was like, “What’s there to worry about? You want the belt? Fight me in UFC!”

By letting BJ do his thing – which is to fight anyone, anytime, anyplace - UFC now has another champion taking care of business in Japan, which is, after all, the biggest MMA market in the world. And while BJ said he had every intention of fighting in both Japan and U.S. for the foreseeable future, it was pretty clear to us where his heart lies.

“I want everyone to know,” said Penn, “that I am the champion, and I will be defending my title in the UFC before the end of the year.” (Does this mean that he is not stripped?) BJ asked us not to reveal his potential opponent, but we can tell you that if it happens, it’s going be a superfight of epic proportions.

As for K-1, BJ has already gone on record as saying that he wants to fight Genki Sudo, whose star is definitely on the rise after crushing Royler Gracie. Ditto the Japanese media and fans, all of whom are excited by the prospect of a hometown hero in a country that hasn’t produced many aside from the great Sakuraba. But earlier, during the post-fight press conference, BJ accused Sudo of ducking him. “I don’t want to disrespect him,” he said, “but Genki was my first choice, and he didn’t accept.”

After tonight, can you blame him?
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