This one definitely has a high shock value to it. Former UFC lightweight and welterweight champ B.J. Penn, who we last saw in the Octagon getting picked apart by talented young welterweight Rory MacDonald, is making a return. The fact that he’s decided not to stay retired is not a real surprise. The huge surprise is that his UFC return won’t be at 170 pounds and not 155 pounds, where he had most of his best career performances.
Instead, “The Prodigy” intends to move all the way down to the 145 pound featherweight class for a trilogy bout against old nemesis Frankie Edgar.
The two will fight again after they have coached opposite one another in season 19 of the Ultimate Fighter. Edgar defeated Penn at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi in a big upset to take the lightweight strap and end Penn’s two-year title reign. It was a very close fight where Edgar utilized his speed and striking game to offset Penn’s tremendous skill set.
While the first fight was close, many thought a motivated Penn would get his revenge in the rematch, but that didn’t come close to happening. In fact Edgar, fighting with the confidence of a champion, dominated a lethargic-looking Penn to take another unanimous decision and defend the strap at UFC 118. .
Edgar eventually lost his belt to Benson Henderson and after losing a rematch, opted to move down to featherweight. He lost a close decision to current 145 pound kingpin Jose Aldo at UFC 156, and is coming off a solid win against Charles Oliveira.
Edgar is traditionally in all-action affairs as shown by his multiple Fight of the Night performances. There had been plenty of discussion about a possible fight against Urijah Faber, but that didn’t materialize. In fact, the UFC says Edgar and Faber were initially the first selections to coach TUF season 19, but Edgar balked at moving down further to 135 pounds and a catchweight fight was ruled out.
Penn at featherweight is definitely something we haven’t seen during his entire UFC career, so it’s going to require a lot of work on the Hawaiian’s behalf to prepare for such a strong opponent that he knows so well. The big key is how his body will respond to the weight loss at such a late stage of his MMA career.
Penn has been battered in his last two fights and while most thought a return might be made at 155 pounds, there couldn’t have been many anticipating a move all the way down to featherweight.
Over the years, Penn has truly been one of the best fighters the UFC has ever had in the Octagon. He’s had a trilogy with Hall-of-Famer Matt Hughes, a pair of fights with current welterweight champion Georges St.Pierre, and of course successful and exciting lightweight title fights against the likes of Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian.
He unified the lightweight belts in a devastating performance against Sean Sherk, and remains tied with Henderson with three successful UFC lightweight title defenses.
This announcement definitely adds plenty of heat to an already solid rivalry, and no doubt fans will be very curious to see how Penn looks and does at the lower weight class. His skills are unquestioned, but have diminished in the last couple of years. Will he be able to find his fountain of youth in the 145 pound weight class?
Also don’t forget about Edgar — he’s a tremendous warrior in his own right, and has always had the answer to whatever Penn has brought his way in the past.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports