The “UFC 107: Penn vs. Sanchez” pre-fight press conference took place Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009, at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn.
The press conference was in anticipation of Saturday’s UFC 107 card which will take place at the FedEX Forum in Memphis and is headlined with a UFC lightweight title fight between champion B.J. Penn and challenger Diego Sanchez.
In the co-main event, former UFC heavyweight champion and grappling specialist Frank Mir takes on devastating striker Cheick Kongo.
Kicking off the press conference was Steve Zito, Senior Vice President of Operations at the FedEX Forum in Memphis. Zito spoke about how great it was to have the UFC come to Memphis for the first time “I can not tell you how happy I am to be standing here today. Over three years ago we watched many MMA events by-pass Tennessee because it was illegal. We knew of the incredible potential of this sport in Tennessee and Memphis because of our previous successes with major boxing events.”
Jeff Mullen, the Director of the Tennessee Commission said he’s so pumped for this card in Memphis, he feels like Diego Sanchez, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!”
Mullen also feels it’s the best card since UFC 100. Prior to working with the Tennessee Commission, Jeff Mullen judged over 70 UFC events.
Apparently B.J. Penn and Diego Sanchez was awarded official “Duck Master” in Memphis as part of some Duck March. They both were sporting walking canes with duck heads as handles at the press conference.
“We have Cheick Kongo, the best striker in the heavyweight division in my opinion, taking on Frank Mir, who is the best grappler in the heavyweight division in my opinion.”
“I said it many times, for years B.J. Penn was coasting on talent. And over the last year-and-a-half he’s been putting everything in to this. I don’t know how many of you got to the portion of the countdown show where his training session was there, but we used to have a show on Spike where we would go in there and watch how these guys train. The stuff that B.J. Penn is doing right now is phenomenal. And this kid is taking his game, his body, and everything, to a whole other level. It’s very exciting to watch, and I know it’s going to make for a very exciting title match on Saturday night…”
“I think there’s two Frank Mirs. There’s the Frank Mir that started in the UFC and then there is the Frank Mir after the motorcycle accident. Frank has really had two different careers. The talk with he and Brock Lesnar; he really does hate Brock Lesnar, and believe me when I tell you, Brock Lesnar really does hate him too.”
“In 2010 we’re going to go to a lot of places we haven’t been to yet… And we’re looking at opening up a lot of markets in 2010 too, in other countries and New York.”
“…Like with the U.K., we set off a bomb there with the live event and the virus starts to spread.”
“We put together a great fight card here. If anybody should be upset, it should be Rampage, that he’s not fighting in his home town. We brought an awesome title fight to Memphis. He’s still with us. Rampage is still with us and he’ll be fighting in the next few months. I’m not mad anymore. I’m not, I’m not really that mad anymore. I’m over it.” [if he is upset Rampage is not fighting at UFC 107]
“B.J. is a couple fights away from cleaning this thing out if he should beat Diego Saturday night. If B.J. won we would have to look and see what’s next. If Diego wins, there’s a lot of talented guys in this division for him to fight.”
“Hawaii would be the first stadium that we would do.”
B.J. Penn said he was watching the UFC 107 Countdown show, “…and I heard Diego say I was gonna run, and begging me to meet him in the middle. And I just want you to know Diego, you’re not fighting Joe Stevenson, you’re not fighting Kenny Florian, you’re fighting B.J. Penn. I’m not going to be hard to find, and I’ll see you in the middle.”
“…I’ve faced all types of opponents, all types of champions, all the best guys all over the world. It’s just another fight, that’s all it is.”
“I don’t complain when the title shot goes to someone who is the most dangerous and is the biggest draw… Diego is more dangerous than anyone out there. I have no problem with seeing him with only two fights challenging me for the title. Plus all the free title shots Dana gave me. (laughs)”
“I don’t know where any of that came from and even if that were true, do you think I would admit to that? I don’t know where it came from, but we’re all right, we’re ready to go.” [talk of him being sick since he got to Memphis]
“Dropping down from 170 definitely brought a new discipline to my career… It brought a better Diego out of me. And I thought it was a faster road to the title and obviously it was, because here I am and now I’m fighting for the title.”
Do you really think you have an advantage over B.J. Penn in conditioning?
“Yes I do, I’ve worked very hard for many many years. Conditioning has always been something I prided myself in being THE best in the business. And I’ve always dreamed of fighting a five round fight. Inside camp and outside camp, I’m always staying in great shape. That’s years of building up to where I am right now. And this last camp was even better, and I’m definitely in the best shape of my life, and I’m sure B.J. is too. And I still feel I’m in better shape.”
How do you respond to B.J. Penn calling you “strange”?
“He’s right!… I am what I am, and that’s all that I am. I don’t really care what people think, so, that’s about it. Be yourself right, have fun, enjoy life. Do a stretch if you want to do a stretch. Do a wiggle if you want to do a jiggle. Who cares? SAY YES IF YOU WANT TO SAY YES!! (shouting) I ain’t hurting no one’s feelings. I’m me.” [Big grin on White’s face]
“I really have just trusted in the Lord throughout my whole career. I’ve never been impatient. I’ve always known that my time is my time, that it’s perfect timing, and when it happens it’s gonna happen. Now here I am stepping in the cage with perfect timing.” [If he regrets not dropping to 155 lbs. earlier in his career]
“All my fights at 170 were in preparation for this fight.”
“I’m not going to do too much talking up here. I don’t think it’s fair to exchange words with Cheick Kongo because of the language barrier.” (This brought a smile to Dana White’s face) “…I’ll meet him in the Octagon, where it’s a much more equal playing ground for us both.”
“I talk a lot. I think some of the things I said, he didn’t enjoy hearing… I don’t think it’s really a dislike as far as on a personal note. I just think opinionated fighters say things and it ruffles people’s feathers.”
“I don’t do anything by chance. I try to put a lot of fore-thought into anything I say.” [whether the mental games have been on purpose]
“I do feel confident about my stand up but he’s better, he’s good there, why take a chance there. I feel there’s less chance of him choking me… I want to get the fight to the ground.”
Mir explained the hardest fight for him would be if Kongo were to back up and pick his shots and play elusive. So in effect his mental game of trying to basically piss Kongo off will hopefully make him angry and want to keep coming forward on the attack. Mir said, “…anything I say that fires him up, is better for me.”
“Self-admittedly, I am kind of obsessed with the Brock fight.
“Even a close win decision doesn’t really move me that high up on the ladder when you have a Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez who are pretty much at the top of the food heap right now.”
“…I can’t let anyone judge me, or judge me like a piece of shit any day. So that’s why.” [there is bad blood between he and Frank Mir]