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B.J. Penn doesn’t ‘feel the fire to compete,’ but won’t close door on fighting future

Gallery Photo: UFC 175 Press Conference
B.J. Penn isn’t sure what his fighting future holds.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

B.J. Penn has kept a relatively low profile since his UFC comeback ended with a disappointing majority decision loss to Dennis Siver this past June. The setback put Penn on a five-fight losing streak, and afterward, many within the MMA community wondered whether that would be the end of the road for the UFC Hall of Famer.

Speaking Tuesday to B.J. Penn Radio, nearly five months after his loss to Siver, Penn revealed that he has no immediate plans to continue fighting, although he also shied away from closing the door on his MMA career for good.

“I’m just hanging out. I’m just relaxing. I haven’t really been training or anything,” Penn explained.

“I don’t know, I don’t feel the fire to compete right now. I’m just kinda hanging out and, I don’t know, I don’t want to scare anybody and say, ‘Yeah I’m fighting again,’ or anything. I mean, if I was knocking out guys in the gym all of the time, then maybe I’d be thinking about it. But I’m gonna go back and start training for fun and, I don’t know, just enjoy myself. Just take it easy and enjoy myself. I do see, though, that there’s awesome people — I don’t know if they just took better care of their bodies or whatever, but you see them, there’s people in their forties, one or two years older than me, or even way older than me (who still compete).

“But it is, it’s about fire,” Penn continued. “It’s about that burning drive and that burning desire on the inside to want to be someone, want to be something, make a name for yourself, gain some respect, make a life for yourself. That is a big part of the whole thing. So, when you do reach all of your dreams that you ever wanted to reach, I guess that’s when the fight begins.”

Penn, 38, announced his intentions to return to MMA in Jan. 2016 following an 18-month retirement. After several false starts, including a run-in with USADA for IV use, “The Prodigy” finally made his comeback this past January, losing via second-round TKO to featherweight contender Yair Rodriguez at UFC Phoenix. Penn then lost a more competitive — though still somewhat lopsided — contest to Siver in June at UFC OKC, dropping a rough third round via 10-8 scores on two judges’ scorecards. The discouraging run put Penn at 1-7-1 over his last nine fights, dating back to 2010.

Penn still isn’t closing the door on competition though.

He said Tuesday that he is unsure what his future holds, and even if he never fights again, it’s possible he could return in some alternative format such as a grappling-only events like Chael Sonnen’s Submission Underground or Eddie Bravo’s EBI.

“We’ll see,” Penn said. “You never know, but I haven’t been grappling much in the past many years, I guess. I’ve been doing more stand-up fighting and trying to take someone to the ground, but I haven’t been grappling as much as I used to. But if I go and I just train for fun right now, we’ll see; maybe train for four or five months and see how I feel, then just take it from there. See how I feel next year, and you never know, maybe I’ll do some grappling. We’ll see. Never say never about anything.”

Regardless of his next step, Penn (16-12-2) remains a seminal figure in UFC history. A former lightweight and welterweight champion, Penn was one of the most popular and talented fighters of his era, a titleholder celebrated for his willingness to fight anyone, anywhere — he memorably took on future UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida in an openweight contest in 2005. So while the future may be unclear for Penn, his legacy still stands as one of the greats.

“I’m going to be taking it a day at a time and just raising the kids,” Penn said. “We’ll see. I’ll be training, but we’ll see. You never know what happens next year. Not saying I’m going to fight or anything, but who knows what’s going to happen.”

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