While the final images of B.J. Penn competing inside the Octagon were tough to take, it certainly doesn’t diminish the remarkable UFC legacy of “The Prodigy.” The 35-year-old Hawaiian icon officially brought the curtain down for good on his fighting career after being pummeled over three one-sided rounds by Frankie Edgar in their featherweight matchup at the TUF 19 Finale.
It was Penn’s first fight back since a dominant unanimous decision loss in 2012 to Rory MacDonald at UFC on FOX 5. That matchup was contested in the 170-pound weight division. Penn had been inactive since that affair but was lured back by the promotion to coach TUF Season 19 and to get one more crack at Edgar.
There would be no turning back the clock, despite the best efforts of fans in attendance at the Mandalay Bay Events Center to will Penn on to one more triumph. After the lopsided loss, retirement was the only option and Penn was wise enough to follow through with that.
As has been the case so many times in the world of combat sports, Father Time can prove to be the toughest opponent of all. There have been numerous examples of UFC and boxing greats who’ve had stellar careers end on sour notes. Not only that, but Penn just happened to be facing a former lightweight champion who is currently one of the UFC’s best 145-pound competitors. Penn’s body looked fine at the unfamiliar weight, but sadly there was nothing there against “The Answer.”
Penn’s legacy on the promotion is a lasting one. UFC President Dana White is always quick to praise “The Prodigy” as the man who helped build the lightweight division. He appeared in numerous main event bouts and PPV headliners along the way. Penn is one of only two fighters to have captured UFC titles in two separate weight classes and his ticket will assuredly be punched to the Hall of Fame.
Penn’s upset victory over Matt Hughes at UFC 46 to win the welterweight title was likely the top moment of his stellar 28-fight career. Penn was a massive underdog against the dominant champion but was able to pull off a remarkable first-round submission victory. Unfortunately, he would never defend that title, as he was stripped of the belt after signing a deal with the K-1 fighting promotion.
After fences were finally mended between the two sides, Penn made his Octagon return at UFC 58, losing a close split-decision to Georges St-Pierre in a welterweight title eliminator. After losing to Hughes in a subsequent 170-pound title fight, Penn returned to lightweight where he would make history.
Penn would join Randy Couture in becoming just the second UFC fighter to win belts in two separate weight classes at UFC 80. He claimed the vacant lightweight strap in a bloody second-round submission victory over Joe Stevenson. Penn would make a successful defense against Sean Sherk before looking for his revenge against GSP. Penn would fail in his bid to unseat St-Pierre as welterweight champion at UFC 94 in what was the true definition of Superfight back in 2009.
He remained the 155-pound champion despite the St-Pierre loss and would make two more successful defenses against Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez. The upset loss to Edgar at UFC 112 would start his decline and he would lose the rematch at UFC 118. Penn would go just 1-5-1 in his last seven fights.
Penn was willing to fight anyone at any weight and had his share of spectacular performances. Another one that stands out was his remarkable 11-second destruction of Japanese star Caol Uno at UFC 34. That fight was just the third of Penn’s career, and he became the first man at the time to stop Uno via strikes. That performance was a sign of what was to come.
So now the book can indeed be closed on Penn’s legendary career. Don’t be fooled by the final 16-10-2 career record. When you think of the best to have ever graced the Octagon, B.J. Penn will always be a name that will be near the top of any list because of his elite skills and warrior’s spirit.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports