There is a reason "Motivated B.J. Penn" is an MMA meme.
Penn is a legendary figure in MMA, as revered for what he accomplished in MMA as for what what he didn't. Penn is one of only two, two-division champions in UFC history and his capture of the welterweight title from then pound-for-pound kingpin Matt Hughes is one of the most iconic moments in the promotion's history. His mercurial nature led him to vacate the welterweight belt in search of bigger game. He did eventually return to the UFC and claim the lightweight title in his career defining run. Penn's forays outside of the lightweight division means he is still one of MMA's foremost cited cases of "what could have been."
Take Dana White, for instance. Yesterday when TMZ asked the UFC president to name a fighter with "the best talent but who didn't have the motivation," Penn was his first response (transcribed via Bloody Elbow).
"That's a loaded question. Listen, there's guys and girls that probably don't reach their potential, because they don't... BJ Penn.
"BJ Penn probably should have been one of the best ever, to ever live, to ever do it. But, BJ was so talented, you know. I just... I don't know. I think BJ, in his own words, would go back and do things differently if he could."
White would go on to say Penn was still "awesome," an opinion backed up by his induction into the UFC Hall of Fame. The fact remains that though Penn achieved far more than most fighters in MMA. He still accomplished less than what many, including himself, saw as his destiny. To many people, that's the crux of Penn's recent attempt to return from retirement which was upended by a USADA violation.
In his return announcement he claimed not to care about his legacy, but one of Penn's most famous quotes was in the lead up to his UFC 80 fight with Joe Stevenson, saying "I only want to be known as the best ever. Is that too much to ask?" Though Penn may have fallen short of that estimation in the eyes of most, he was still the best lightweight in the world from roughly 2003 until 2010 and considered the best lightweight of all time by many.
And hey, even if White thinks Penn underachieved, Anderson Silva still thinks he's the GOAT.
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2014: Robbie Lawler beat Matt Brown via unanimous decision in the main event of UFC on Fox 12. The win set him up for a rematch with welterweight champion Johny Hendricks. This event also featured the UFC debut of future UFC strawweight champion and all around hero, Joanna Jedrzejczyk who won a unanimous decision over Julianna Lima.
Look, I know the lead here isn't super pertinent, riveting stuff but sometimes you just gotta bring up BJ Penn because his career is probably the most fascinating in MMA history (and it's a light news day with other people covering all the stories). When arguing who the GOAT is, there are a consensus 3 names at this point: Anderson, GSP, and Jon Jones. To me, GSP is pretty clearly the best fighter we've ever seen from an accomplishment standpoint. Jones and Anderson are incredible but I just think their resumes aren't as good as GSP's. Mighty Mouse has the same problem. He beats everyone put in front of him but it just so happens that Chris Cariaso doesn't have the same historical weight as Jon Fitch.
Now BJ didn't beat everyone because he went off and did things that are much more interesting and eccentric but the fact of the matter remains that from February of 2003 (his nonsense draw with Uno) until August 2010 (his loss to Frankie Edgar in the rematch) if the Space Jam aliens came down to Earth and wanted to fight one lightweight for fate of the world, you wanted BJ Penn slinging hands on behalf of all mankind. 2738 days of being the baddest dude on the planet is incredible no matter how you slice it. Maybe he isn't the GOAT, but he was damn sure something special.
See you tomorrow M.Rmy.
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