The UFC makes its first ever trip to the state of Massachusetts this Saturday when they visit Boston's TD Garden for UFC 118. Boston is the hometown of UFC president Dana White, who was critical in getting MMA legalized in the state.
"Boston's got a big chip on its shoulder," White says. "It's a place that says, 'we’re the best and we're gonna kick everybody's ass.' It's got that whole fighting vibe to it. And I love it.” White goes on to say “Boston has a great history as a fight town, but boxing has fizzled out from where it was. I'm going to bring the fight game back to Boston. I'm going to bring back the excitement of big fights, the energy of it."
Edgar earned an upset win when he dethroned Penn, considered by many as the best lightweight in the history of the sport, at UFC 112. Despite winning the belt outright back in April, oddsmakers and many fans consider Edgar the underdog -- a position that the lightweight champ is content with.
“When I come in, I think my last three or four fights I’ve been the underdog,” Edgar said. “So it’s a role I’m becoming comfortable with. So I seem to perform pretty good in this position.”
On the flip side, Penn is eager to erase the memory of the April loss with a dominating effort this Saturday. He’s eager to get revenge, prove that he is the best in the world, and more importantly, get his belt back. Penn, who admits that Edgar outwitted him at UFC 112, promises to bring a different fight to Edgar this time around.
"Frankie is a difficult competitor for anybody he fights. He is in it to win it," Penn said. "What made him a difficult opponent to fight against is that he and his team -- they had a good game plan. His team had a good game plan and Frankie executed. That's always a difficult thing to go against."
“You know, I want to prove to the world,” says Penn. “I want to prove to Frankie, I want to prove to Frankie's corner, I want to prove to my corner, I want to prove to everybody, you know, who the best fighter is in the world, who's got the most tools, and who can execute better. And, you know, as far as motivation, you know, I can find something. I can find something to not like Frankie about, you know.”
The co-main event will feature MMA poster boy (and now actor) Randy Couture and boxing stand-out James Toney in a bout that will likely add fuel to the MMA-versus-boxing fire that has been smoldering over the last several years.
42-year-old heavyweight boxing champ James Toney is not the first boxer to take shots at the mixed martial arts, but he IS the first to step into a cage willing to put his money where his mouth is. Although, other cage fighters such Chris Lytle or KJ Noons have pro boxing pedigrees, Toney is the first pugilist willing to fight using entirely his boxing acumen. Yes, he’s been doing some basic MMA training over the last several months, but there’s no doubt that Toney will step into the Octagon as a boxer first and foremost.
"I punch and I knock people out," Toney told L.A. Times' Lance Pugmire. "I'm going in there knowing what everyone in boxing knows: that everybody has a plan until they get hit. I'm a fan of MMA. But these guys hold, kick, scratch when they're in trouble … they can't mess with boxing."
Couture, a UFC Hall of Famer, is acutely aware of the dangerous hands of his opponent and has no plans to turn Saturday’s bout into a boxing match.
"He's a great striker; he's got good power. To be honest, he's going to be dangerous in that realm of the fight," Couture said. "If I try to trade punches with him, then [getting knocked out] is a possibility. That's why I'm doing my homework, and have no intention of standing in there and boxing with James Toney. That would be stupid.”
Also on the main card is a lightweight title contender match-up between Kenny Florian and undefeated Gray Maynard. The winner earns a title shot against either Edgar or Penn. With a win on his home turf, Florian would get his third shot at the lightweight belt. As for his opponent, in addition to looking for a win, Maynard is out for a little respect. After he defeated Nate Diaz in January to go to 9-0 in his career, it was presumed that he would go on to face Penn, the champ at the time. Instead, Edgar, who he previously defeated, was given that opportunity.
UFC 118 will take place at Boston's TD Garden this Saturday and will broadcast via PPV, with two preliminary bouts airing on Spike TV.
Main PPV Card
Champ Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn (for lightweight title)
Randy Couture vs. James Toney
Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda
Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard
Marcus Davis vs. Nate Diaz
Preliminary Spike TV Card
Joe Lauzon vs. Gabe Ruediger
Nik Lentz vs. Andre Winner
Un-aired Preliminary Card