BJ Penn’s (pictured) place in MMA lore is cemented. Penn is only one of two UFC fighters to don titles in two different weight classes.
He’s fought the best of the best, and beaten many of them. However, that was when Penn was “The Prodigy,” not the aging 37 year old you see before you today who is desperately attempting a comeback.
Penn’s latest pursuit to recapture the past leads him to Jackson/Winkeljohn, the famed MMA squad that boasts countless superstars. During his first day at with the team, Penn quickly observed “these guys are serious, it’s making me serious.”
But we’ve heard this all before from Penn, haven’t we?
Penn’s in the best shape of his life. A motivated Penn is a dangerous Penn. Blah, blah, blah. Then the fight rolls around and he gasses out faster than the ’89 Accord I drove around high school in. Or, more disturbingly as we’ve seen in his three most recent outings, gets absolutely blasted by a younger, hungrier fighter.
Penn wouldn’t be tarnishing his illustrious career by returning to the cage, only to get annihilated by the next generation. But what’s the point?
Could Penn return to the sport that made him famous? Sure. Could he beat anyone of significance that would justify a comeback after retiring 18 months ago following a landslide TKO defeat to Frankie Edgar, where Edgar admitted felling sorry for Penn while he pulverized his face with elbows and fists? No.
Penn certainly wouldn’t beat Nik Lentz, the man he challenged this week to a bout at UFC 197.
The Hawaiian hasn’t won a fight since knocking out a well-past-his-prime Matt Hughes in November 2010. Hughes retired one fight later at the age of, wait for it, 37.
We see this time and time again in professional sports, where an athlete in the twilight of his career refuses to believe the parade passed him by long ago. In MMA, you can turn old overnight, and unfortunately for Penn, that was many moons ago.
The MMA ship has sailed. And it’s time for Penn to ride off into the sunset, content with his UFC Hall of Fame status.