Watching the UFC 123 weigh-in on Friday, I was able to draw some parallels between (arguably) the two biggest names that will be fighting on Saturday night: BJ Penn and Rampage Jackson. Both men need this event more than we can imagine.
Think about it. Both are coming off disappointing losses in which neither man looked like they really wanted to be there. Both men are former champions that are looking to try and recapture that old magic that made them so feared by opponents and loved by fans throughout the world.
Penn is going up against Matt Hughes, a fighter who he has dominated in the past and likely was eager to take the fight because he knows that he can beat him. He is going to try and use this to springboard himself back into title contention. His last fight against Frankie Edgar was so one-sided that you would have thought that it was a sparring session designed for Edgar to practice his technique.
In the case of Rampage, he is coming off a fight against Rashad Evans where he looked completely disinterested. He had no desire to compete; he was out of shape and looked like he would rather be doing anything else.
Both men have said that this moment, this day, this event is going to be their new beginning. They want to reinvent themselves. They want to show the world there is definitely more left in the tank. They want to prove to the fans and analysts that what happened before was just a freak accident. The blip on the radar for two world class fighters.
Will their desire be enough? Will all the talking and training be enough? Will they finally put aside their ego and show that their humility has humbled them? Will they really be better now because of what happened before?
The time for talk is almost over. Now, BJ Penn and Quinton Jackson need to make their statements. They need to show that "The Prodigy" and "Rampage" are still in there. They need to find that desire and that hunger that made them so great once.
If they can find it then they can get back to being what they still think they are—two of the very best in the world. If they can't find it, then we could be looking at the sad end for two of MMA's best fighters ever.
UFC 123 is a lot more than "just another event" for BJ Penn and Quinton Jackson. UFC 123 is going to be their most important event because it will tell us and more importantly it will tell them if they still have it in them, if they can still go.
UFC 123: will it be the start of something new or will it be the end of two eras?