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B.J. Penn Can Make a Comeback, but Does He Want To?

I don't know what's more troubling about B.J. Penn's most recent loss -- the fact that he posted a video to his website that sounded oddly like a precursor to a farewell the day after his defeat at UFC 118, or the fact that he hasn't been able to get too fired up about either of his losses to Frankie Edgar.

If it were anybody else, a little post-fight melancholy would be perfectly understandable. You lose your belt via narrow decision, then lose the immediate rematch by getting shut out five rounds to none, you're bound to be a little bummed.

But this is B.J. Penn we're talking about. He's been known to dabble in a conspiracy theory or two after a defeat, or turn his ire on the next unfortunate soul to get in the cage with him. He's the guy who Dana White once said would show up to your house every morning looking to fight if you somehow owned a win over him.

Now he gets beaten up and pushed around by a smaller, quicker fighter, and he can't even work up enough fire in the belly to demand a completely unreasonable third fight. What gives?

In Penn's video address to his fans, he thanks them for their support over the years and says he plans to "sit back, relax, spend some time with the family, and let everything sort itself out from there."

Penn added: "I wanted to try and fight as often as possible, but right now I'm just going to relax, take it easy, and see what's coming up next. I'm sure everything will figure its way out."

It could be just the post-fight blues talking, but I don't hear a man who's eager to climb back to the top and get his revenge on the lightweight champ. I hear a man who may be wondering how much longer he wants to keep doing this.

It's an especially delicate issue for Penn, whose desire has always been a greater impediment than his talent. Ever since he came on the scene in 2001, there's been no doubt as just how good Penn can be when he's motivated and well trained. The only question is, and has been for the last several years, will that be the Penn who shows up on fight night?

Against Edgar at UFC 118, Penn didn't gas out. He didn't quit. But he also didn't show that old fire, or even a little freewheeling desperation when he was down four rounds to none going into the final frame. He seemed just as uninspired as he did in his first fight with Edgar, and now that he's finally been knocked from the top of the lightweight rankings, it's hard to tell how much it actually bothers him.

At 31, and with a career that hasn't involved too many damaging beatings, Penn could absolutely physically continue in the UFC. The question isn't whether he can make himself do it; it's whether he really wants to. That's the hard part. It's also the part no one else can help him with.

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