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Morning Report: B.J. Penn blasts fighters for seeking ‘money fights’

Gallery Photo: TUF 19 Finale Weigh-in Photos

Last year, Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor reshaped the MMA landscape. When Diaz submitted McGregor at UFC 196, most people assumed McGregor would return to the division in which he was champion, to defend his belt as years of precedent had unfolded before him. But instead, McGregor opted to rematch Diaz in a non-title fight and shirk what some would call his “championship responsibilities” in favor of a “money fight.” While this wasn’t the actual birth of the “money fight” it was the first time in the UFC someone had opted to go that route instead of a championship bout and McGregor’s seeming disinterest in fighting anyone that wouldn’t “move the needle” is an ethos that has rippled across all divisions since.

Middleweight champion Michael Bisping fought 14th-ranked Dan Henderson instead of the plethora of higher-ranked contenders waiting for a chance. Tyron Woodley has called out Georges St-Pierre, Nick Diaz, Michael Bisping, and Conor McGregor despite two of them not being active, and the other two not being in his division. Just a few weeks ago, Dominick Cruz fought Cody Garbrandt instead of consensus No. 1 contender T.J. Dillashaw. Those aren’t the only instances of this phenomenon happening but they are some of the most notable.

And it shows no sign of stopping. After winning the title from Cruz, Garbrandt suggested he also wouldn’t fight Dillashaw because he isn’t a big pay-per-view draw. It seems like this is the new normal for UFC fighters, especially for champions, and one former champion is unhappy about this development.

Speaking with Fox Sports recently, UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn decried this new age of fighters seeking “money fights” instead of building themselves up like he did.

“I’ll tell you this, I’m not the guy to go out there and say ‘oh give me this money fight, give me that money fight’,” Penn said. “I look at all these guys doing that and I’m like why don’t you go knock out a 100 guys and become the money fight yourself? ‘Oh I want to fight this money fight, this money fight’ — why don’t you make yourself the money fight? How’s about that one? Let’s just start there.”

Penn speaks from experience. At a time when MMA was much less well known than it is today, he made himself into the first true star below the 170-pound weight division. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion, he burst into the UFC with impressive knockout wins and his willingness to fight anyone, anywhere, at any weight endeared him to fans and helped build him into a must-see attraction. As the UFC’s popularity grew, so did Penn’s, consistently attracting more than 500,000 pay-per-view buys when he fought. For reference, Bisping and Cruz both fought at UFC 199, bringing in 320,000 buys and Woodley’s title fight against Robbie Lawler pulled at UFC 201 pulled in 240,000 buys.

For years, professional wrestling has tried to leverage victories over established stars to build new ones, but Penn’s contention is that fighters should seek to become stars in their own right rather than trying to fight the already existing stars and hope some shine rubs off on them. Standing on the shoulders of others others doesn’t work, only building yourself up does.

“That’s the only way to do it.”

These comments come just days before Penn tries to build himself back up, not towards stardom but towards relevancy again. Penn is set to end his 30-month retirement in a main event fight against 10th-ranked Yair Rodriguez this weekend at UFC Fight Night Phoenix. In this culture of fighters wanting to fight the biggest names, a win might set Penn up to benefit from the behavior he so dislikes. After all, there are very few bigger “money fights” then B.J. Penn.


The Rock. Ronda Rousey posted a quote to Instagram about hitting “rock bottom.”

Sick burn. Stephen Thompson says Tyron Woodley “isn’t acting like a champion.”

Adios. Mirko Cro Cop confirms his MMA retirement but leaves the door open for “farewell bout”.

Layoff. Mauricio Rua explains why his return to the UFC has been delayed.

Cracked. Evangelista Cyborg retires from MMA.


Free fight.

Dana’s response to Meryl Streep is somewhat different than Coker’s.

Tito saying Ronda had “gimme fights” that made her a star.

Rose’s personal Vlog.

Pros picking the main event this weekend.


T-Wood gives WB the shot.

Severe MMA.


I can’t believe this is something we care about.

And Aaron Simpson with the ether.

This shouldn’t be a controversial, or hard to conceptualize opinion.

But at least we got Fred Jones riding for us.


Played Maia hard.

Feel bad for the guy.

Woodley is relentless.

Making it in the UFC is hard.


But at least he kept it classy in his snub.


She’s coming back.

A photo posted by rondarousey (@rondarousey) on


Ev Ting (12-3) vs. Kamal Shalorus (9-4-2); ONE Championship’s Throne of Tigers. Feb. 10.

Liam McGeary (11-1) vs. Chris Fields (11-7-1); Bellator 173, Feb. 24.

Tyron Woodley (16-3-1) vs. Stephen Thompson (13-1-1) UFC 209, March 4.


2010: Benson Henderson became the undisputed WEC lightweight champion when he beat Jamie Varner by guillotine choke at WEC 46.


The 2017 World MMA Award nominees have been announced. You can go vote for MMAFighting as well as Ariel and Shaun here and you should definitely do so.

Also, the absurd uproar over Meryl Streep is proof positive that MMA has yet to overcome its massive inferiority complex. Roger Goodell didn’t come out with statements about it.

Take it easy everyone and see y’all tomorrow.

If you find something you'd like to see in the Morning Report, just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and let me know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and add us on Snapchat at MMA-Fighting because we post dope things and you should enjoy them.

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