No one in their right mind is going to argue the fact that BJ Penn is a legend in the sport. A Multi-division Champion who is tied for the longest title reign in Lightweight History, BJ is a household name for many reasons. Additionally, he is a UFC Hall of Fame Inductee, whatever that means. When I learned of BJ making his comeback against the
dangerous flashy Yair Rodriguez, it hurt a bit. Although I would love to see vintage BJ Penn in the Octagon once again, he was buried by Frankie Edgar on a hot summer night in Boston, MA. Now the UFC and BJ Penn have officially brought tears of pain to my beautiful brown eyes. This coming weekend I will be forced to watch BJ get starched by Dennis Siver. I have no choice but to view unnecessary punishment unleashed upon one of MMA’s greatest natural talents by nothing more than a washed up gatekeeper in Siver.
Is this fight safe? No. Is this fight relevant to the title? Hell no. Is this fight disregarding the best interests of the fighters to promote a subpar card? Of course. My preceding answers are facts, they cannot be argued, they are science. Instead of harp on the inevitable sadness that will fuel my case of the “Monday’s”, I choose to examine the BJ Penn I remember. The BJ that was a vampire vs. Joe Daddy, the BJ that was a human wrecking ball vs. Sean Sherk, the BJ that first showed me what a human brain looked like courtesy of Diego Sanchez. That is the BJ Penn that will forever live in my mind, but the question must be asked: How would BJ Penn fair in today’s MMA talent pool?
BJ is known best for his run at Lightweight even though he fights now at Featherweight and has fought as heavy as 191 pounds in an Openweight bout vs. Lyoto Machida (225 pounds). In an effort to keep my brain from scrambling with variables, we assume BJ opted against diet, cardio, and weight cutting to stick at Lightweight. So does BJ capture gold in today’s Lightweight division? NOT A CHANCE.
The 2017 Lightweight talent pool is stacked. Added to this, the division will only become more competitive with time. The average male is 5’9” tall, that is the same average height as the UFC Lightweight division. Given this, a great deal of new MMA talent will always fluctuate to this weight. Regardless if top athletes like Conor ever come back to MMA, the top 10 will continue to become more and more elite. The division right now has 3 championship caliber fighters in Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Tony Ferguson. BJ has enough natural talent to compete with these guys, but he has never harnessed it correctly. As a fighter he always played to his competition and since he was so far ahead of the curve he was never forced to push his limits. His cardio is god awful, illustrated by his 3-7 record in decisions and 0-4 skid in decisions since the night he lost the belt last. BJ may be able to stand toe to toe with today’s elite in his prime, but they would take him to deep waters that he never learned to swim in. I can see BJ ranking in the middle of the top 10, likely alternating wins and loses vs. fighters such as Rafael Dos Anjos, Eddie Alvarez, and Edson Barboza.
The truth always hurts, but we can’t deny reality. BJ Penn is a pioneer and legend of the sport, but in the MMA landscape today he blends in to the crowd. The only thing worse than factuality in your mind, is having to watch it proved to you in an awful manner. Get your tissues ready, we have a sad week coming up.
I leave you today to remember the good things. In a time when fighters want to handpick competition and vacate belts in fear, BJ fought all comers. Here is a great example when he fought future
longtime UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Lyoto Machida: