|UFC superstar BJ Penn being interviewed by abs-cbnNEWS.com's Camille Naredo. Photo by Dennis Gasgonia for abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Mixed martial arts (MMA) legend BJ "The Prodigy" Penn believes it won't be long before a Filipino fighter becomes a champion at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
"The beauty of mixed martial arts is - it's gonna grow so big, and so fast around the whole world because every country has its own martial arts," Penn told abs-cbnNEWS.com.
"Filipinos have so many different martial arts. Every country has so much martial arts, and this thing is gonna grow fast and everybody's gonna have a shot at becoming a champion," he added.
Penn is in Manila to promote the UFC. He will make a public appearance and hold an open training Wednesday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Music Hall.
Penn is one of only two men in UFC history to have held title belts in two different divisions, having been the welterweight and lightweight champion.
In an interview, Penn said he will not be surprised if a Filipino fighter becomes a UFC titleholder given the immense popularity and growth of the sport in the Philippines.
At least two Filipinos have made a mark in the UFC: Brandon "The Truth" Vera was once a contender for the light heavyweight championship, and now "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" Mark Munoz is among the top fighters in the middleweight division.
For other Filipinos who want to pursue martial arts, Penn said it's all in the mind.
"The other ones who want to be fighters and who want to take this as far as they can, just believe in yourselves," he said.
"You can go as far as you wanna go. That's the only reason I got to where I was."
"It's not a certain technique, it' s not a skill, it's not anything. It's all in your mind - it's how far you want to go," Penn said.
Penn holds a record of 16 wins, 8 losses and 2 draws. His most recent fight was a unanimous decision loss to Nick Diaz at UFC 137.