For 14 months, B.J. Penn was no longer a part of the world which he helped build, instead choosing a self-imposed exile to his homeland of Hawaii. He returned with thoughts of a future rich with success that would build upon his already established legacy. He left with more heartache. And headache. And ... well, you get the picture.
The former two-division champion was routed by Rory MacDonald at UFC on FOX 5, a beating so physically taxing that Penn had to be transported to a Seattle area hospital for observation, according to UFC officials. While he's expected to be OK, his fight career may not survive. If he was turned off to the idea of fighting by a lopsided loss to Nick Diaz in October 2011, his defeat by MacDonald can only serve to convince him his first instincts were correct.
Since Penn hasn't commented since the loss, that remains to be seen. As for UFC president Dana White, he's seen enough.
Following the event, White said during a FUEL TV interview that he wanted and expected to see Penn hang up his gloves for good.
"He didn't say it tonight but I think BJ is probably going to retire," White said. "I wouldn't mind seeing that. He came back with a fire lit under him. Let me tell you what: That kid looked so good tonight. Rory looked better than he ever looked. The body punches he threw, you dont see punches like that in mixed martial arts. He really put it to B.J. tonight.
"B.J. is a warrior," he continued. "Talk about a guy who doesn't give up, doesn't quit, and just keeps coming. I have so much respect for B.J. I always have, even though the good times and bad times. I‘d like to see him retire. He’s got plenty of money, he's got a great family that loves him, he's got babies, a beautiful wife ... He has nothing left to prove to anybody, and everybody loves him. You heard the arena here tonight. I'd like to see B.J. retire.
Penn has only won once in his last six fights, a knockout win over Matt Hughes at UFC 123 in November 2010.
He holds a 16-9-2 record, which doesn't look great on paper, but 12 of his 27 career fights took place above his natural 155-pound weight class. Penn is one of only two men who've won titles in two UFC weight classes. The other is Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Penn is likely to earn the same honor, making the only question about his career whether or not he decides to give it one more go.