Filipino fans are hot in anticipation of the match between B.J. “The Prodigy” Penn and Ricardo “The Bully” Lamas, to be held at the Mall of Asia Arena on Oct. 15.
Penn is a living legend in UFC. He won his first UFC championship more than a decade ago, in 2004. He is the only actively competing Hall of Famer and only the second UFC fighter to win titles in two different weight classes.
Lamas is one of the best Featherweight contenders in UFC. His fans can’t forget that arm-triangle choke he used on Cub Swanson and the guillotine choke on Dennis Bermudez, which won him both fights.
These are what UFC fighters are remembered for: their killer moves and victories, the milestones that define their careers.
We forget, however, that they aren’t all grit and glory; they, too, try to lead normal lives outside the Octagon.
Inquirer Super had a chat with these two UFC greats and was allowed a peek into their lives outside the ring.
A typical day for you is…
Penn: A typical day for me could be two different things. One day is if when I’m in camp. Another when I’m not in camp. Regular day I go drive about half an hour out of town and go to the taro far, mess around with the taro, we make poi about two to three times a week. Jump in the water, go to the beach or something.
When I’m in camp a typical day I wake up, I run, then go to the gym and spar, go to the technique in the evening.
Lamas: A regular day when I don’t have any fights set up or planned, I wake up with my wife and my kid and we’ll have breakfast. Shortly after that I’ll go to the gym and get a workout for a few hours. And then come back home, be a dad again, take care of my son.
I’m also in charge of taking care of the animals in the house. I have two English Bull Terriers, an African Grey Parrot and a Panther chameleon.
Training camp consists of waking up early, going to the first session of the day in the gym, taking a few hours break then getting my second session in. After that I’m usually done and I come back home and spend time with the family before I go to bed and do it all over again.
What do you do to relax?
Penn: I really enjoy growing taro. Making poi is fun. They’re really excited about
poi in Hawaii that’s why I like to do it for recreation.
Lamas: I’m a couch potato. There’s a lot of TV shows my wife and I like to sit down and watch and enjoy together. Currently we watch “The Walking Dead,” “Game of Thrones” and “Vikings.”
Other than that spending time with my family is huge for me. Just me, my wife and my son, if I could pick something to do it would be just sitting around being with my wife and playing with my son. Also my dogs, my pets, they’re big stress relievers. Besides that, I’d say, riding my motorcycle.
Pig-out food when not training:
Penn: When I’m not preparing for a fight I eat just about anything. Cheeseburgers, pizza, whatever fattening local food. I eat Loco Moco a lot. Hamburger, rice and eggs, and gravy.
Lamas: Pizza, burgers, anything bad you can think of, that’s probably what I’m eating when I don’t have a fight coming up.
When did you realize that MMA was something you could pursue as a career?
Penn: You know, I never knew what I wanted to do with my life. But when I got into
Jiu-jitsu I always got good results right away. I could wrestle people much bigger than me, I could do well. I didn’t know I was gonna do this for the rest of my life.
But when I almost became a world champion around that time, I was like, “Hey you gotta win this match.”
From that time. I just wanted to fight in the UFC for a bit, but I didn’t know how long
I was gonna be fighting in the UFC. I just wanted to try it a couple of times, and then next thing I knew I was getting a title shot.
And then it just kept going and going. And now it’s like 15 years later. But it’s been okay.
Lamas: It’s something I said that I always wanted to do since I was a kid. I think I might have been 10 or 11 when I saw my first UFC event and I was hooked right away. So I told all my friends that I would be a UFC fighter one day. And it was always at the back of mind.
I think the defining moment when I started fighting, when I realized I could take it far, was my first title fight as a professional. I won in my opponent’s hometown. He was kind of a hometown hero, undefeated, I beat him on his turf and so after that I kinda realized I could probably do something with this.
What does it mean to you to be a fighter in UFC?
Penn: It’s been a journey for me. I’ve been doing it for a long time. Sometimes I forget when I’m busy in life or haven’t been fighting for a long time. Then people remind me and talk to me about fighting.
Lamas: It means everything. This has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. It’s very rare in this world that a person can fulfil a dream he’s had as a child. He puts everything aside and goes exactly for what he wants to do in life. I think that’s rare but I think more people should do it.
What do you think makes you stand among fighters?
Penn: You know when I used to fight in different weights or whatever, it was just a normal thing. Always a Jiu-jitsu mentality, too, you wrestle people much larger than you. You compete in the absolute division over the weekend. But I think I always try to just follow what the martial arts was about, like the technique of a smaller man being able to defend himself from a bigger man.
Your favorite or best move is…
Penn: I like it when I get the guy’s back and I get to choke him. That’ll be a perfect night for me.
Lamas: I came from a wrestling background so my best move would be my ground and pound and submission attempts.
Does the fury during a match ever cross over to outside the ring?
Penn: You know, the sport is so demanding and so intense that by the time it’s done there’s just a lot of respect between the two opponents. That’s the thing about mixed martial arts. You don’t go in like, learning a lot of discipline and bowing and all these things, but over time, all the training, getting beat up and everything, you just learn respect along the way, learn how to treat people, because, you know, that guy can beat you, that guy can kick your butt. Okay, or you can maybe kick his butt. That’s how martial arts is-a good teacher.
Lamas: All the fights I’ve been in, everything ended in the ring. We get to let everything out in the ring. And the victor is decided and after that, there’s a mutual respect among fighters.
Does it get personal?
Penn: In the ring people get emotionally involved. There’s a lot on the line. And this is business. Everybody wants to win and move up the ladder. And go up to move to bigger and better things. That’s all part of the game.
Lamas: But there have been cases that the bad blood boils over. It’s something that happens but I think most of the time the fighters let out everything inside the ring but after the fight they respect each other.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Penn: I just want to be remembered as another guy there who gave everything he had. I know my goals. I know exactly where I wanna be. As far as I wannabe remembered, a guy who just gave his all out there. Didn’t always do it the right way but no regrets at the end.
Lamas: I would say my determination. I’m not someone who easily gives up or backs away from a fight. I’m always there. And I always give 100 percent.
How do you feel about your upcoming match?
Penn: I’m very excited to fight in Manila. And as soon as I got the phone call, I knew I wanted to fight in the Pacific. I know I got a good opponent and a good test in front of me. If I get past him, it’s gonna answer a lot of questions for the company and the fans. I’m very excited about this.
Lamas: I’m very excited. B.J. is a Hall of Famer in this sport, a living legend who’s still competing. For me this is a great opportunity. B.J. is someone that I watched growing up in this sport so it’s very surreal for me that I get to compete against him now.
What do you think is your edge over your opponent?
Penn: I think my edge is that I’m willing to learn and I got all these new techniques beside my old techniques and I’m just gonna come and keep hunting him down until the fight is done.
Lamas: I think just all around I’m a complete fighter. There’s no area where I feel uncomfortable in, whether we’re on the ground or on our feet, I’m equally comfortable. I think B.J. is kind past his prime and I think I’m just reaching my prime right now.
Do you have a personal hero?
Lamas: My father, definitely. All the things he’s done in his life, from the stories back in Cuba. He’s probably the bravest person I know; probably the most honest person, also. A lot of people will hide their true feelings but my father is one of those persons that shoot it.
Do you have a message for your fans?
Penn: I just wanna thank Manila for hosting this fight, I’m very excited to be here.
UFC Fight Night Manila: Lamas vs Penn will be held on Oct. 15 at Mall of Asia Arena. Tickets are available at SM Ticket Outlets or www.smtickets.com.