Penn’s Memoirs Explain ‘Why I Fight’

By Loretta Hunt Apr 13, 2010
Dave Mandel/

B.J. Penn joins a short list of MMA luminaries that includes Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz with the release of his memoirs, “Why I Fight: The Belt Is Just An Accessory,” this week through William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins.

The 320-page was co-written with freelance writer and former radio talk show personality David Weintraub, who experienced key moments of Penn’s career as a behind-the-scenes producer for Exit 9 films, which handles the bonus footage for UFC DVDs.

Often referred to as the greatest lightweight ever to grace the sport, Penn is a regular pound-for-pound candidate on ranking lists. Penn’s career has had its milestones, from getting his first crack at championship title in only his fourth pro bout to his contractual woes with the UFC following Penn’s decision to fight in Japan’s K-1 promotion to his UFC return and domination of the 155-pound ranks in 2007. caught up with Penn, who’s in New York City for the first leg of his book tour, to discuss why this pen(ning) is mightier than the sword. How long did you work on “Why I Fight?”

Penn: We started working on the book around the UFC “Primetime” show with (Georges) St. Pierre (in December 2008) and we finished right before the Diego Sanchez fight (in December 2009.) At 31 years old, did you feel you were old enough to write your autobiography?

Penn: I think that this is only one part of my career and I have a lot to talk about in this part of my career. I think I still have some left that might turn into another book starting from now. But some people suggested to me that maybe I should write a book and I thought it was a good time. With a lot of the fighters coming up, people out there only get to see the fighter step in the Octagon. Here’s a story from someone who’s stepped in the Octagon many times, someone who has and hasn’t been a champion, who did the whole thing of fighting over in Japan, which was big at one time, and seeing what you were worth as a free agent. The fighters who are in the sport now don’t really have that option that some of us did back then. What was your favorite part of the book-writing process?

Penn: Finishing it, probably. (Laughs) Because we were just so busy. We had so many fights coming up, I was just happy to finish it. And your least favorite part?

Penn: Talking to David Weintraub every day. I mean, who would want to do that? (Laughs) Is there anything in the book that you’re nervous about revealing, and if so, why?

Penn: No, no. Everything in the book, I said it. A lot of it is old history and it may not relate to everything that’s going on today, but I didn’t try to lie or make up anything. Is there any surprising elements in the book? What will fans take away about you that they didn’t know before?

Penn: I don’t think there’s anything very surprising. I think it’s just a story about a kid who grew up in Hawaii who ended up becoming a mixed martial arts world champion and his trials and tribulations through his life and career. People can use that to follow their own career in MMA or their career in life, period. Different people go through different things -- it’s one foot in front of the other and people move forward. What is the message of your book?

Penn: Everybody wants to say who I am: if I’m just some lazy, rich kid who does nothing. A lot of people like to write about that and express who I am. Here’s my shot where I can let everybody know. I was excited about the book in the sense, where I can say , ‘Look, this is who I am. This is me and this is the mixed martial arts industry,’ because it’s one of the most misunderstood sports industries out there today.

“Why I Fight” Book Tour Dates

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010
7:00 PM
232 East Ridgewood Avenue
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
12:30 PM
100 Broadway
New York, NY 10005

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
7:00 PM
Book Revue
313 New York Avenue
Huntington, NY 11743

Thursday, April 15th, 2010
7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
567 North Stephanie
Henderson, NV 89014

Friday, April 16th, 2010
7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
2200 Eastridge Loop
San Jose, CA 95122

Sunday, April 18th, 2010
2:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
10775 Westview Parkway
San Diego, CA 92126

Monday, April 19th, 2010
7:00 PM
3700 Torrance Blvd
Torrance, CA 90503
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