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Should B.J. Penn return and fight Nik Lentz? UFC 192 fighters are divided

Esther Lin photo

HOUSTON -- If you think MMA social media is just a space for fans and media to spout off, well, think again.

Fighters might pretend they ignore what's being said online, but in reality, they're following along just as closely as everyone else.

That was rarely more obvious than Thursday, when it was clear the vast majority of the fighters at the UFC 192 media day at Toyota Center had heard about the beef between retired UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn and Nik Lentz.

On Wednesday, Penn, the retired UFC Hall of Famer and former two-weight-class champ, teed off on Lentz on UFC Tonight and offered to come out of retirement and fight him. Lentz fired back on social media Thursday, calling Penn a "spoiled rich kid" and taking him up on the offer.

Although all the fighters at media day are primarily concerned with their upcoming fights, they all had heard about the beef, and they all had an opinion

"I think its so funny how social media has turned into an avenue for people to talk trash to each other," said heavyweight Shawn Jordan, who meets Ruslan Magomedov on Saturday night's main card.

Opinion as to whether Penn, who retired following a poor performance against Frankie Edgar in July, 2014, should come out of retirement, or whether he should remain retired in Hawaii, went across the board.

UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, for his part, feels Penn has nothing left to prove, but admits that if Penn decided to return for another fight, he'd watch.

"He has nothing to prove," Cormier said. "If he wanted to fight, he would, and he could, and I would definitely tune in. BJ has nothing to prove. But you can watch in his eyes that there's a fighter in there, and that will never go away."

A former light heavyweight champion who has grappled with potential retirement issues himself, Rashad Evans, said he wouldn't mind seeing Penn return, but only if the notoriously streaky Penn fully committed himself.

"I'm in if BJ really, truly dedicated himself to a camp, and where he's not the boss of the camp, where he gets told what he needs to do, because that's what it takes at a certain level," said Evans, who meets Ryan Bader on Saturday. "He has a lot of experience and stuff like that so he knows what he should do, but until you have someone saying, ‘you gotta do this, you gotta do that,' you're not going to push yourself to the limit. I want to see him do it right."

Strawweight Angela Hill can appreciate a good Twitter beef as much as anyone. Hill, who fights Rose Namajunas on Saturday, has made as much a name for herself for he Twitter one-liners as her actual fighting.

For her part, HIll not only wants to see Penn redeem himself after the Edgar debacle, but her money would be on the former two weigh-class champion.

"BJ, that last fight, I would want him to come back and redeem himself from that last fight," Hill said. "I would love him to come back just for that. It's always nice when a fighter can retire on a high note. And I, to be honest I don't even know who Nick Lentz is. So I put my money on BJ. His last fight doesn't represent how awesome he was."

Jordan has an admitted bias; He and Lentz are friends. So he sees this as something which would be a boon for a guy who's been successful. but never quite broken through.

"If they're building up a fight with each other, good for them," said Jordan. The former LSU fullback added "If the guy wants to fight, let him fight, if I had a chance to play football again, I would. I loved playing football. It's been a part of his life for so long. He still trains, he still does stuff, its' not like he's been away from the sport. If he wants to come back, come back, and it's a great fight for Nik."

Whether a Penn vs. Lentz fight turns out to be a pipe dream or something with an actual chance of happening, it was the talk of the UFC on Thursday. Hill, for one, hopes something comes of it.

"It would actually be nice to see a Twitter beef get settled," Hill said. "Usually it's just stupid s--- talking, but if they went in and fought it would make the Twitter beef mean something."

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