BJ Penn making comeback to win one more UFC title

BJ Penn will return to the Octagon and face Yair Rodriguez on January 15 Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Throughout his entire career, BJ Penn has had an affinity for seeking the most difficult fight possible. Why would anything change in his comeback?

Penn (16-10-2) will face surging 24-year-old featherweight Yair Rodriguez (9-1) at UFC Fight Night on Jan. 15 in Phoenix. It will be his first appearance since announcing his retirement in 2014.

When the matchup was first announced, public response seemed to waver between confusion and dread. Rodriguez is 5-0 in the UFC, and although he has managed only two career knockouts to date, his style lends itself to ... damage.

Penn, meanwhile, hasn't won a fight since 2010.

Of course, even suggesting this is a difficult matchup brings the competitor out in Penn, who has been attempting to make a comeback all year.

"So, what you're saying is when I make this look easy on Jan. 15, I'm the f------ man, is that what you're telling me?" said Penn, on ESPN's 5ive Rounds podcast.

"It's not a difficult [fight] at all. He's a very good guy, but I feel like I'm training with very good guys. I have a good team around me and I don't feel anything is anywhere near out of my league."

Penn, who turns 38 this month, is arguably the greatest lightweight of all time, but has not competed in that division for more than six years. After losing the lightweight championship in 2010, Penn went 1-2-1 in four welterweight fights before dropping all the way to featherweight for what was initially his final bout against Frankie Edgar.

Penn's return is also at featherweight, which he says gives him a chance to win a title in a third weight class -- which has never been done. Penn, a former lightweight and welterweight champion, is one of three athletes to win UFC titles in multiple weight classes, along with Randy Couture and Conor McGregor.

"There's more opportunity for me to get three UFC belts at 145 than going to 185," Penn said. "I already feel really confident nobody will be able to get the 155- and 170-pound belts. I want to get one more world title. Three titles at three weight classes, and without a doubt 145 is my best option."

In 2009, Penn had an opportunity to hold two UFC titles simultaneously, but ultimately came up short in a welterweight title bid against Georges St-Pierre. That feat was accomplished last month by McGregor, however the UFC already announced he has "relinquished" his featherweight championship. Penn said he was surprised by that.

"I was very surprised when they just stripped him of the title," Penn said. "They made sure he held on to it to get that accomplishment, then stripped him right after. That was strange.

"I know we talked about it when we were going to fight [St-Pierre], it would have been one fight every two months. You've got to defend both belts. We had plans of trying to defend both when we were fighting Georges, but we ended up losing."

Beyond his goal of winning a third title, Penn says he has decided to fight again simply for the love of "conflict."

"I just like fighting again," Penn said. "Standing in front of people, sparring every day, punching people, getting into a fist fight every morning. I missed it. I can't live without it right now. While I can still lift my arms up and do sprints, all these things, this is what I want to do. This is what I love to do. This is the best way I know how to make an honest living."