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Jiu-Jitsu Books 


Roberto Pedreira














 Global Training Report


B. J. Penn

From Gong Kakutogi

No. 110

June 6, 2001

Translated by 近藤様子 (Kondo Yoko)


 {The interview was conducted in February, 2001]

Q: First, could you tell me about your childhood?

Penn: What was my childhood like? (laughing) When I went to the high school in Hilo, I was crazy about parties. I did a lot of things I shouldn't have done.  I was a high-school boy who liked fighting very much.

Q: How was such a person like you attracted by Brazilian jiu-jitsu?

Penn: When I was seventeen years old, some Taekwondo teacher moved into my town. That man, who had learned jiu-jitsu a little bit under Ralph Gracie, asked me to do jiu-jitsu.

Q: Then, you became absorbed in it?

Penn: On the contrary, I had no interest in it at all. Then he started to persuade my father. But I didn't want to do jiu-jitsu. My father told me, then, "he is doing it alone. Why don't you help him?" That was the start of the my relationship with jiu-jitsu. As I trained with him, it turned out to be that I should go to the mainland.

Q: I see. Which academy did you go in the mainland?

Penn: Ralph's. I stayed there for one week the first time. Honestly speaking, I really liked the life in Hawaii, so I didn't want to leave the island.

Q: There must have been a big difference between Hilo and Mountain View (south of San Francisco) in California where Ralph has his base.

Penn: Indeed. Maybe, I stayed in that town for two years after all. It was all for fighting. My younger brother still lives in California. I took all the credits necessary to graduate from high-school in Hilo by the time I was sixteen, so I took the home high-school course for the rest of time and came back to Hawaii without any problem. Unlike me, my younger brother had to change schools, so he has been in California for four years. 

Q: Had you been under Ralph while you were in the mainland?

Penn: Ralph was a good teacher. I got the purple belt from him. But I missed Hawaii badly. California didn't suit me, because the weather wasn't consistent, sometimes cold and sometimes warm, and also there were too many cars. 

Q: But, wasn't it difficult to keep on training jiu-jitsu after returning to Hilo?

Penn: No, there was no problem, because Renato Verissimo of Nova Union opened the academy. Now I am coaching in Hilo as his assistant.

Q: That's why you were training in the dojo of Andre Pederneiros in Brazil, isn't it?

Penn: That's right. In Brazil I had stayed for about one-month  a few times.  And I got the black belt from Andre. He has a lot of experience and a deep knowledge. He is a great teacher who trained many strong students. There are many good academies everywhere in Brazil, but I trained exclusively at Nova Union.

Q: It seems that you have no difficulties finding a sparring partner in that academy. 

Penn: That's right. Shaolin (Vitor Ribeiro) never runs out of stamina. and Robinho (Robson Moura), Leo Santos, Joâo Roque, full of veteran fighters.

Q: Among them, who did you think was especially strong?

Penn: All of them. Leo's sweep is fantastic too.  By the way, how is Abe doing? He was a crazy Japanese training four times a day. 

Q: Are you talking about Mr. Abe Osamu? He made a long stay in Brazil at his age of 33. Even after returning to Japan, he said that he wanted other fighters in his generation to hold on the training by showing himself doing it. 

Penn: He is really an interesting guy. A Japanese, who could speak little English, and the Brazilians communicated somehow with each other in Japanese and Portuguese. When I won in Mundial, all the members of Nova Union were very happy with it. 

Q: You are the first non-Brazilian to became the world champion in the the black belt division. How do you feel about it?

Penn: I didn't expect myself to be successful in jiu-jitsu, because I do it with joy. I really don't know how to say about it. 

Q: It was your first fight since you got the black belt, wasn't it?

Penn: Before that I became the second rank in pena class of the blue belt in Mundial, and the third rank in leve  class of the brown belt. It is really difficult to be the representative of pena class in Nova Union. I can't believe even now that I could get such good results. The fact that I became the first non-Brazilian black belt world champion will never fade away. Even if I keep on losing in future, my name will remain forever. (laughing)

Q: How do you think about the fact that Royler didn't participate in it at that time?

Penn: Even if Royler had been there, I think I could have won. Soca made little of me.  And Edson Diniz whom I fought at the final round,  was an unknown fighter, but really strong. He defeated Yuki Nakai and Marcos Barbosa, you know.

Q: What is your goal for the future as the world champion of jiu-jitsu?

Penn: NHB.

Q: You could also do submission wrestling, in which you defeated Baret Yoshida before. 

Penn: It's maybe two years ago that I defeated Baret in the tournament held by Egan [Inoue]. I passed his guard in the last five seconds, but had no time to aim at the joint lock.  He is really a strong fighter. He would do well in Abu Dhabi too. I want to watch him fight with Soca. I hope I'll be able to participate in Abu Dhabi too. [Note: After all, he couldn't go in]. But my target now is NHB. If I can go in UFC, I might not go in Mundial. I'm serious about it so much. You know, I decided to leave my favorite town Hilo in order to do training under Egan. I am going to do kick-boxing and boxing training here. Egan's personal connection is reliable. I don't care about who my opponent would be, but I want to be the feather-weight champion in UFC, anyway. That is my goal. 

Q: Your rivals in the country seem to be Jens Pulver and Din Thomas. 

Penn: They are tough fighters. 

Q: There are many Japanese fighters in this class.

Penn: Indeed. There are many fighters with a fighting spirit. They don't tap easily in punches or the joint lock.  I enjoy watching Rumina's fight, because it is so exciting. There are more fighters in Japan, such as a fighter who ended up with a draw in the fight with Marcio Feitosa, and Gomi, and Mamoru who defeated Baret (Yoshida),  Uno (Caol) who left Shooto,  and Sakurai is best, in a different class though. And Sakuraba too. Vanderlei is a dangerous guy, but Sakuraba is the number-one fighter. 

Q: What is your ideal style?

Penn: A fighter who can do boxing, Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu, and wrestling. I aim at being complete. I think I want to fight in the presence of the fans in Hawaii some day, and I want to fight in Japan too. Yes, I want to go to Japan rather than to Honolulu. There are the rings like Pride and Shooto in Japan which I want to get in. But, my target is UFC anyway. UFC started, then jiu-jitsu spread. And a Taekwondo teacher started to teach me jiu-jitsu. And a Japanese reporter interviews someone like me. The root of all originates from UFC. That's why I want to fight in the Octagon. Maybe, people who shout "kick his ass" with a beer in one hand are more suitable to me than the voice of admiration like "Wo!" clapping their hands. (laughing)

(c) 2001, 近藤様子 (Kondo Yoko). All rights reserved.


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