LOS ANGELES — We might not have seen the last of BJ Penn in the cage.
Jason Parillo, Penn’s boxing coach, told MMA Fighting on Wednesday at the Bellator 170 open workouts that he doesn’t know for sure if Penn will fight again, but he knows what he would say if someone put a gun to his head.
“I can’t give a straight answer, like yes or no,” Parillo said. “Because I’m not a mind reader. But again, if you put a gun to my head and you say ... ‘If you answer wrong, I’m gonna shoot you in the head. Do you think BJ Penn will fight again?’ I would say yes.”
Penn fell by second-round TKO to top prospect Yair Rodriguez at UFC Fight Night 103 last Sunday night in Phoenix. Rodriguez, ranked No. 10 in the UFC’s official featherweight rankings, was a tough matchup for Penn. Rodriguez is athletic and talented — and only 24 years old. Penn is 38 and fought just once in the past five years coming in.
Parillo didn’t think Rodriguez was the right matchup for Penn, especially given the long layoff, the age gap and Rodriguez’s standing among the top 145-pounders in the world.
“F*ck no, that wasn’t the right matchup,” said Parillo, who is here coaching Tito Ortiz for his Bellator 170 main event against Chael Sonnen. “Maybe? F*ck no, that wasn’t the right matchup. One fight, five years. Give me the No. 35 guy. Who’s ranked No. 35?”
The original plan for Penn’s comeback was for him to fight Dennis Siver and then Cole Miller, but a UFC anti-doping violation for admitting to IV use cost him six months and a bout at UFC 199 in June.
The issue for Penn is also what makes him one of the most beloved MMA fighters of all time. He doesn’t really turn down fights. And it’s that type of mindset, Parillo said, that will likely bring “The Prodigy,” already a UFC Hall of Famer, back to the Octagon.
“You’re going in to win no matter which way you’re looking at it,” Parillo said. “Disappointed? Yes, of course we’re disappointed. It’s just BJ figuring out what he’s gonna do from here. BJ is the type of guy that is never gonna want to not fight. BJ, he’s gonna fight until he dies. That’s where he’s gonna die — he’s gonna die in that cage.”
If he does fight again, preferably for Parillo against someone not ranked as highly, Penn will at least have had some recent cage time accumulated. At least more than he did going into the bout against Rodriguez.
“Not only did he not fight in 2-1/2 years, he’s only fought once in five years,” Parillo said. “The one time he fought in five years, he lost. He got stopped. So as far as ring rust, I say 1,000 times it’s the real deal. Especially when you’ve fought once in five years, that’s just insane.”