The year is 2019. But it could have been 2009. Or 2005.
For Clay Guida, a chance to fight B.J. Penn, a UFC Hall of Fame member, was not one he was going to pass up. It doesn’t matter what Penn’s recent results look like.
“First of all, all the incredible fights that B.J. put on,” Guida told Luke Thomas on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “He paved the way for not just the lightweight division, but pretty much the UFC. He’s done so much for the sport, so much for so many up-and-coming fighters. I’m just so excited and thrilled that they offered a fight like that. I could not turn it down. That’s not our style, we accept every fight with open arms. To compete against a legend like B.J., he’s more than just a legend. He’s one of the creators, he’s a pioneer. He’s ‘The Prodigy’ for a reason. So we’re excited about this matchup.”
Guida will take on Penn at UFC 237 on May 11 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Penn has been a pro MMA fighter since 2001 and he’s one of the best to ever do it. Guida, meanwhile, has been around for almost as long — since 2003. This was a matchup he didn’t necessarily expect to get, but here it is right there in front of him.
So does it matter to Guida that the 40-year-old Penn has not won a fight since 2010? That he’s been finished in three of his last four fights? Not so much, Guida said. This is the same Penn that Guida has watched throughout both of their careers. And he doesn’t feel it’s his place — or anyone else’s on the outside — to tell Penn it’s time to hang up the gloves.
“It’s kind of hard to believe that,” Guida said of Penn’s losing streak. “It’s hard to think the the guy that was the former two-time champion — lightweight and welterweight — hasn’t won a fight in nine-plus years. It’s pretty incredible. But you know what, getting in the cage with someone like B.J. Penn, it’s an opportunity you can’t turn down. He’s the only one, his camp and his family are the only ones to say if he should be competing or not. That’s totally up to him. I’m not in a position to say that, so I’m accepting the fight and we’re gonna put on a show for the fans.”
Guida (34-18) is still relevant in the lightweight division. He’s coming off a first-round submission loss to Charles Oliveira at UFC 225 last June, but before that he had won two straight since returning to lightweight. Guida, 37, gives credit to Team Alpha Male, where he has been for four years, for sharpening up his striking.
The name of the game for the Illinois native, though, has always been wrestling. And that will be the case against Penn, too, he said.
“I’m looking to get back to the old ways of ‘The Carpenter’ — getting these guys down and ground-and-pounding them,” Guida said.
Now, that’s an area of potential danger. Penn has always been incredibly proficient off his back. He was the first American to ever win the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world championship and earned his black belt in just four years. Say what you will about Penn’s recent MMA resume, but he has long been a grappling savant.
“The fight is definitely gonna go to the ground and we’re gonna have to watch out for a slick guy like B.J. who’s dangerous everywhere,” Guida said. “He’s got tricks up his sleeve. He’s one of the most dangerous fighters. I don’t care how old he is. I don’t care when the last time he won his last fight is. That guy can slip a submission on you, any time, any place.”
With a victory, Guida can envision a top-10 fight next. More than that, having the a “W” next to the name B.J. Penn on his career results page is something he believes he’d cherish.
“It gets us back in the win column,” Guida said. “Having a finish is what we’re going for against B.J., obviously. Just like every fight. Beating not just a legend, he’s a Hall of Famer. Having a win over B.J. Penn, someone like that, it puts you in the next echelon. … Him and Jens Pulver paved the way for us. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.”