BJ Penn retires a legend
BJ Penn is calling it a day (Photo: Instagram)
The referee called an end to the fight, but instead of cheers for the victor there was an eerie silence hanging over the crowd. No one wanted to be the first to applaud. Frankie Edgar did not celebrate by running around the cage or climbing to the top and pointing furiously into the audience. Instead he held his arms up for only a second and walked over to check on his defeated opponent. A legend of the sport had just fallen and the way he had fallen is what turned the crowd so solemn.
B.J. Penn returned to the UFC on July 6th for the rubber match against the first Lightweight to beat him in 8 years, Frankie Edgar. As the 10-1 underdog Penn was never expected to come close to winning, but no one expected the beat down that would ensue. Edgar handily beat Penn through two rounds and finished him in the third by raining elbows down on Penn’s head.
UFC commentator Joe Rogan said after the fight on his fight companion podcast “Man that was hard to watch, hard to watch, hard to watch.”
In the post-fight press conference a crying BJ Penn announced his retirement from the UFC.
When asked why he decided to return, Penn responded “I guess I just needed some closure.”
While his career ended on a somber note, Penn has become one of the most storied fighters in MMA history. Penn earned his black belt in Jiu-Jitsu quicker than any non-Brazilian in in history; only taking him three years to obtain it. In the same year he earned the black belt, he became the first non-Brazilian to win the Jiu-Jitsu world tournament in the black belt division.
Soon after Penn joined the UFC and took the league by storm, most notably defeating Welterweight (170 lbs.) champion Matt Hughes by rear-naked choke four minutes into the first round.
Penn later left the UFC to join the K-1, where he fought several opponents, including a heavyweight (220+ lbs.) fight against future UFC light Heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion Lyoto Machida.
Upon his return to the UFC in 2006, Penn fought UFC legend George St. Pierre and gave him arguably the toughest fight in St. Pierre’s career. He lost to GSP and moved back down to the Lightweight division (155 lbs.) where he dominated every single opponent put up against him. Defending his title on three separate occasions, Penn still owns the record for most consecutive title defenses in the lightweight division.
In his entire career, BJ Penn only lost three times in the lightweight division, twice to Frankie Edgar and once to another lightweight legend Jens Pulver.
While his career ended on a very sad note, BJ Penn will forever be remembered as one of the pioneers of MMA and the UFC. His personality and willingness to fight anybody made him a fan favorite, and his brutal domination of the Lightweight division turned him into a legend.
Kyle Hutchinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org