Clay Guida (34-18) has a professional MMA career that currently spans nearly 16 years, and in that time “The Carpenter” has fought and beaten many legends and world champions. The game wrestler never seems to need any additional motivation to get “up” for bouts, but he admits to Yahoo Sports that matchups against all-time greats, like the one he has ahead of him this Saturday at UFC 237 in Rio De Janeiro against BJ Penn (16-13-2) do make him particularly eager to scrap.
“Oh, without a doubt,” Guida says.
“I could not have gotten a better opponent to face. BJ Penn not only built the lightweight division and help mold the entire lightweight division, but also the landscape of MMA on the whole.”
Penn, a former lightweight and welterweight world champion, has also fought at featherweight, middleweight and heavyweight. The pound-for-pound great has thus far refused to hang up his gloves and has had a brutally rough go of it for the past eight years, but Guida rightly only sees the legend in Penn, ahead of their fight.
“Penn has fought at just about every weight possible,” he continues, marveling.
“He is probably one of the only, if not the only mainstream fighter, fighter in the public eye, who has fought in so many different weight classes.”
Beyond that, Guida has some personal grudges to settle this week in Brazil against Penn. Back in May of 2001, Penn made his professional and UFC debut, earning a TKO victory at the expense of one of Guida’s first fight coaches and mentors, Joey Gilbert (2-3).
“This one is also big because [Penn] took out one of my heroes, Joey Gilbert. So, this fight has a lot to do with Illinois wrestling and Gilbert Grappling. I’m doing this one for Joey Gilbert and the boys, and the wrestling community,” he explained.
Guida is also eager to have a better showing in Brazil than the last time he fought there, in November of 2015, when he was submitted by Thiago Tavares quickly in the first round. “We’ve got to make good on that one in Brazil as well,” he adds.
“We’ve got revenge and business to handle.”
Leading up to this week’s fight against “The Prodigy,” Guida insists that Penn’s recent legal troubles and domestic abuse allegations are not something he and his team fixated on. “We tune it out because we have no control over it,” he said.
“We looked at it like, no news is good news … We’ve got the task at hand. I hope the best for him and his family and I hope things get worked out.”
In true Clay Guida fashion, the Team Alpha Male member is looking to do damage to his opponent on Saturday, even though he respects the hell out of him. “BJ is awesome, well-spoken. Him and Randy [Couture] were the first dual-weight world champions,” he concludes, before expressing his desire to end Penn’s career.
“It is going to be an honor to take on such a huge name in the sport. Expect big things. BJ is going to put it on the line, and I’m going to try and make this his last one, all in good faith and with respect.”
More from Yahoo Sports: