Local fans cheer on BJ Penn
The drinks were flowing, and pupus were plentiful as about three dozen people, mostly members of Koa Puna Motorcycle Club, were on hand Saturday afternoon at Kim’s Karaoke Lounge as Canada’s Rory MacDonald administered a beating to Hilo’s BJ Penn in the UFC on Fox 5 fight card.
The fight, at Seattle’s Key Arena, went the distance, but the former UFC welterweight and lightweight champion was on the losing end of a unanimous decision. The judges scored the three-round welterweight bout 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26.
After making a Toys for Tots run to Laupahoehoe Point to deliver a little Christmas cheer in the form of toys for children who might otherwise not receive a present this holiday season, club members repaired to the Piilani Street watering hole for a little libation and camaraderie. That the fight was on TV was a bonus.
“I think it’s gonna go the distance,” Kenny Cockrell said prior to the hostilities. Asked to pick a winner, he went with Penn, but sounded less than certain in his endorsement of the Wainaku warrior.
Candi Mullins, owner of Pacific Gymnastics, said that Penn’s 4-year-old daughter, Aeva, and the fighter’s nephew, LJ, who’s almost 4, both train at her facility.
“I’m hoping that BJ will do it,” she said before the bout. “I offered to train him in my gymnastics gym, but he didn’t take me up on it. … I think he looks a lot better and I think he trained hard, but I just hope he’s got it tonight.”
Mullins pointed out that UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, who has twice beaten Penn and who trains with the 23-year-old MacDonald at Montreal’s Tristar Gym, incorporates gymnastics into his training regimen.
While Penn’s cardiovascular fitness has often been questioned, his courage has not. MacDonald, who is 3 inches taller than Penn, used his 6-inch edge in wingspan to pepper his face with jabs, which he followed with brutal elbows, knees and high kicks — and Penn absorbed it all.
The up-and-coming Canadian fighter also landed some crushing body blows which doubled Penn over in apparent agony in the second round.
“Whoever came up with this game plan (standing and trading with MacDonald), it’s the wrong game plan,” Cockrell said during the second round. “He should be going for the takedown. He’s gotten too far away from his jujitsu roots. I truly believe he’s fighting (MacDonald’s) fight.”
Instead, it was MacDonald who scored the fight’s only takedown, late in the second round.
Between the second and third rounds, referee Herb Dean called the cageside physician to check Penn’s swollen left eye.
“He should have stayed retired!” someone yelled. Penn had announced his retirement following a lopsided decision loss to Nick Diaz on Oct. 29, 2011, but unretired earlier this year after MacDonald called “The Prodigy” out on a popular mixed martial arts podcast.
Penn will turn 34 on Thursday, and his record fell to 16-9-2 with the defeat. His last win was Nov. 20, 2010, a 21-second knockout of 37-year-old former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes.
“I’m glad he made the three rounds,” Mullins said. “I just wish he’d have let me train him. I think he’s still got something. He just needs to bring it out.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.