Ryan Hall knows the narrative floating around his fight Saturday night against UFC Hall of Famer BJ Penn at UFC 232.
Penn has struggled through the toughest stretch in his legendary career with five straight losses, retiring from the sport and then returning, with his last win coming back in 2010.
He’s also two weeks removed from his 40th birthday, and Father Time is the undefeated, undisputed enemy of every athlete.
Still, Hall isn’t buying the idea that he’s just going to go out and maul Penn because his record hasn’t looked great lately or that he’s supposedly a shell of his former self.
“I expect to face a fully well-rounded mixed martial artist but not only well-rounded but somebody who is legitimately dangerous in every aspect of the fight,” Hall told FloCombat when speaking about Penn. “I know that will bring out the best in me.
“From a fan’s perspective, it’s very easy to just look at the wins and losses and think of it as a very binary outcome, but for those of us who get into the ring, especially when looking at the guy standing across from you, we’re not thinking what has his record been like. You don’t fight the person’s record. You don’t fight the guy they’ve been. You fight the person you are going to see in there on the night.”
Regardless of wins and losses, Penn absolutely holds an experience edge over Hall, who is still very young in his own fighting career after earning his UFC contract by way of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show.
Hall also happens to be one of the best grapplers to ever compete in the UFC with a long list of Brazilian jiu-jitsu accomplishments, but he knows that doesn’t necessarily give him an advantage over a legend like Penn.
“I’m sure BJ is taking this seriously. He has a great deal more experience as a mixed martial artist, he was Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion four years before I started training martial arts at all,” Hall said. “[Physically,] is he the same guy he was at 25 years old? Perhaps not, but again, the amount of experience and growth he’s gone through will help him out instead, and I know he’s going to be very, very dangerous.”
Prior to his UFC career, Penn was a decorated grappler in his own right, but he developed other aspects of his fight game to complement his submission arsenal because most fighters would do anything possible to avoid going to the ground with him.
That won’t be the case with Hall, who welcomes a chance to test his submission skills with a grappler like Penn.
“I’m very excited about that prospect,” Hall said about grappling with Penn. “BJ Penn is a black belt world champion-caliber grappler. There’s not a lot of those running around, period, much less in mixed martial arts. He’s got a great deal of experience making it work in mixed martial arts, which obviously grappling is its own thing and there’s some tweaks and adjustments to happen when you start adding striking and everything.
“I’ve never faced anybody like that.”
Hall isn’t afraid to admit he’s never seen somebody like Penn standing across the cage from him before, but the same could be said in reverse.
Penn has taken on a long list of champions, former champions and top contenders in his career, but he’s never seen somebody quite like Hall before, and Hall knows it.
“I can also say he’s never faced anybody even remotely like me on the ground or standing to the ground,” Hall added. “I think we’ll both be walking in there seeing something different than we’re used to. I don’t have any BJ Penn clones flying around. I wish I did. You can find great grapplers and you can find other great mixed martial artists, but there is only one BJ Penn.
“I benefit from the same situation because there’s no one else out there who fights quite like I do.”