clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Fightweets: Should B.J. Penn go back into retirement?

New, comments

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Esther Lin photo

As you may have heard by now, Michael Bisping will face Dan Henderson on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 204 in England, and hey, your just may know a thing or two about their history, too.

Meanwhile, it will also mark the last UFC card for four weeks, which wasn't the original plan, but then news broke that the B.J Penn-Ricardo Lamas fight, and with it the entire card planned for Oct. 15 in Manila, was scrapped.

So, sure, we'll get into Bisping-Hendo stuff in this week's Fightweets. But since you've pretty much had every conceivable angle covered already on this one, and because you're going to be flooded with UFC 205 chatter starting next week, let's start off with a little closer look at the Penn fallout.

Do you want to see B.J. Penn fight again?

@hunt5588: RE: BJ Penn. Has there ever been a fight where most people were relived when it fell apart?

@RuckerYeah: BJ's out again. Maybe he should stay retired?

As you can see here, there was a recurring theme in the feedback after the announcement B.J. Penn's Oct. 15 fight with Ricardo Lamas was off: No one outside the card's participants and their teams, friends, and families were sad the card was gone.

I can see why one would take a look at what's gone down during Penn's attempt at a mixed martial arts return, then conclude that maybe karma is trying to drop a giant hint at the former UFC welterweight and lightweight champion and current UFC Hall of Famer.

Let's review: Penn announces he's coming out of retirement. He was expected to return at UFC 197, but got pulled due to what seems in hindsight to have been less-than-solid allegations made about his personal life. He was scheduled to fight Dennis Siver at UFC 199, which gave way to Cole Miller at UFC 199, which was then pulled due to a violation of USADA's hydration ban.

Now we've got the latest wrinkle, a rib injury which forced the cancelation of his main event fight with Lamas and subsequently the entire card in Manila. (And hey, given some of the news out there, maybe they shouldn't reschedule this one any time soon).

For those keeping score, that marks the fifth diversion in his attempt to return since he announced his intentions. So much has gone down in Penn's attempt at a comeback alone, it's almost enough to make us forget that final loss against Frankie Edgar, a truly depressing affair which cast a pall on an otherwise tremendous International Fight Week in 2014. Of that he won precisely one of his last seven fights before calling it a day.

So yes, I can absolutely understand why you'd see all this and maybe not want to see Penn go through with his comeback. But here's the deal: We knew the day Penn announced his retirement he'd be back sooner or later. It's simply too deeply ingrained in who he is. And if the UFC wasn't allowing him to fight, he'd jump to Bellator as soon as he was legally able.

He's going to fight whether we want him to or not. And with that in mind, I think there's a pretty solid choice for a Penn opponent, one put forth by my colleague, Marc Raimondi: Have Penn fight Urijah Faber.

Faber's days as a championship contender are in his rear-view mirror, but there are still fun fights out there for him, waiting to be made. Faber, having carried so many fight cards at the old Arco Arena in Sacramento, has spent years talking about wanting to stay around long enough to fight at his hometown's new downtown digs. That day is coming, as the UFC debuts at Golden1 Center for UFC on FOX 22 on Dec. 17. Assuming Penn's injury will allow him to recover in time, why not make the match? Give Penn the comeback fight he wants without sacrificing him to a top featherweight contender; let Faber get the fight he's long dreamed of without making him cut down to bantamweight and fight a 135-pound killer.

if Penn is going to keep resisting what the fates seem to be hinting, at least make a fight that makes sense. Penn-Faber fits the bill.

What is Hendo wins?

@bwall87: What is Hendo's legacy if he wins? What is it if he loses? Prediction?

@ScreaminDemonLP: If Hendo scores this miraculous upset and wins the strap, where does he rank amongst the all time greats?

Henderson's legacy is set regardless of whether he wins or loses at UFC 204. This is a guy who never backed down from a fight, never walked away from a challenge, always seemed to be reaching for the stars. Maybe he'd win, maybe he'd lose, but damn if he didn't make the most of whatever opportunity was presented to him.

Fight multiple times in one night? No problem. His first nine pro bouts were held on a grand total of four nights. Win the PRIDE 183-pound title, then go up and challenge longtime 205-pound champ Wanderlei Silva? No problem. Win via knockout and become to this day the only fighter to simultaneously hold multiple world titles at once. Put those belts up one at a time in de facto unification matches in the UFC? No problem. Lose both fights by a hair (a tight decision to Rampage Jackson, and it's often forgotten he had Anderson Silva in real trouble before Silva rallied), then dust yourself off and do the next thing. Go on the Ultimate Fighter? No problem. Deliver a knockout for the ages. Leave the UFC at the height of the UFC's first big boom and go back to Strikeforce? Why not? The checks cleared. Go up to heavyweight and fight Fedor Emelianenko on network television because why the hell not? No problem. Hendo finished him inside a round.

And all that's before he returned to the UFC and waged an all-time classic with Shogun Rua. People were already telling him to quit back then.

Henderson took every challenge which came his way. He won some, he lost some. Maybe he'll land an H-bomb on Bisping tonight, maybe he won't. But whether or not he pulls off another Randy Couture moment, the mere fact Henderson has gotten himself into this position at age 46 is a testament, in and of itself, to his legacy.

(And sure, Hendo's history suggests UFC 204 won't be the last we'll see of him in MMA competition, regardless of what he's been saying all week. But for now, since he seems to believe what he's saying, let's play along.)

A little UFC 205 talk

@AlexSuffin1: Khabib or Johnson?

I'm tempted to just say "Khabib" and leave talk of this UFC 205 fight at that. But then, we're talking about the Khabib Nurmagomedov who ragdolled opponents over a two-year span from 2012-14. The current Nurmy is one who has fought just once in the past two-and-a-half years, and did so against an overmatched, last-minute replacement making his UFC debut. And Michael Johnson is coming off his most impressive victory in quite some time with his knockout of Dustin Poirier.

But then, Johnson's most maddening trait has been his tendency to follow up killer performances with sluggish efforts. And, really, even after sitting out, given what Nurmagomedov has accomplished in the cage, he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt until someone proves otherwise.

So really, I probably should have just said "Khabib" and left it at that.

RIP Josh Samman

Allow me to finish this week with a few words about Josh Samman. Longtime Fightweets readers know my story: Last year, I lost both of my parents three weeks apart, followed by the death of one of my closest friends a month later. Josh, whose own struggles overcoming loss were wonderfully conveyed in his memoir, The Housekeeper: Love, Death, and Prizefighting, sought me out on Facebook, friended me, and we proceeded to have several conversations over the next few months about loss, grief, and moving forward with your life. Josh also quietly donated, without any fanfare, to the Los Angeles-San Diego charity ride I did for Hire Heroes USA, the bike ride which was the major turning point in getting my life back on track. You've heard a lot of good things about Samman in the wake of his death this week, and they're all true. The MMA community lost one of the most honest, intelligent, empathetic people we've ever had the pleasure of knowing in this business. RIP Josh, and thanks for all the lives you touched in your all-too-short time.