Why I Fight

Why I Fight / Why I Fight
BJ Penn with David Weintraub
William Morrow, 2010
304 pages, $25.99

Hilo’s BJ Penn, with his serene Buddha face and “The Prodigy” moniker, seems like a man of few words. So it’s funny to think that he’s put out 300 pages of his life and, well…why he fights. While Penn hasn’t done his best in the past couple of UFC matches, he still remains a pride and joy of the Islands, arguably garnering more association with Hawaii than Maui’s Kendall Groves or Hawaii transplants like Chris Leben. And as only one of two fighters who has held belts in two different weight classes, Penn’s story makes for an interesting one for anyone interested in the MMA world.

This is not only Penn’s biography, but a sharing of his philosophy, of how he gets into his fight mentality (it’s “just a scrap”), of his closely guarded training regimen. Readers will find out the origins of his nickname, read play-by-play accounts of various fights and peer into his behind-the-scenes interactions with the likes of UFC president Dana White. Those familiar with Big Island will enjoy Penn’s nostalgic accounts of jumping off the 60-foot Puu‘eo Brdge and picking marijuana leaves from plants in the sugarcane fields as a mischievous high school student.

And of course, there are pictures! The photos of a young Penn makes one appreciate his lifelong dedication to martial arts. The smack-talking and showmanship that television loves to show before fights disappears in readers’ minds once they see a young Penn grappling in his jujitsu gi or standing in a family wedding photo.

Even though you’d probably rather see Penn fight (and win, for that matter) than write, hardcore fans should capture this zeitgeist of a book at the peak of Penn’s fame.