Come May, it will be a year since fans last saw B.J. Penn in the octagon, and he’s in no hurry to rush back in. If he ever does.
The former two-division UFC champion appeared on an Instagram Live chat with longtime coach Jason Parillo over the weekend, and the 41-year-old Penn explained why the price he pays in fight camps these days might finally signal the end of his career.
“It takes a lot of work,” Penn said (transcription via MMA Junkie). “It takes too much. Too much (expletive) work. At this age, it just takes too much (expletive) work. You never know what’s going to happen, but it takes so much work.”
“There’s so much people telling me to fight again,” Penn later added. “Other people telling me don’t fight again. It’s a lot to take in.”
Since returning from a second retirement in 2017, Penn (16-14-2) has failed to see his hand raised in four appearances. Most recently, Penn lost a unanimous decision to fellow veteran Clay Guida at UFC 237 last May. That outcome added to a winless streak dating back to February 2011.
In his prime, Penn was one of the most feared fighters in all of MMA and he captured UFC titles at lightweight and welterweight, knocking off the likes of Matt Hughes, Diego Sanchez, Sean Sherk, Jens Pulver, and Takanori Gomi. He was a star during the UFC’s rise to global prominence in the 2000s.
That notoriety has made it difficult for Penn to move on. He admitted to being torn between his love of competition and the possibility that the game has passed him by.
“If I can get anything else going it would be nice,” Penn said. “If I could get anything else going in life than just a fist fight, it would be nice. But it’s so fun and I love the process and all those things about it.
“Then you get in the gym and start doing good with active fighters and next thing you know you’re trying to fight and biting off more than you can chew. You might be, you might not be. But the process itself it’s a lot to just do a camp or whatever.”
In recent years, Penn has occasionally made headlines for the wrong reasons in his native Hawaii, with his name attached to various run-ins with the law. Earlier this year, Penn was investigated for his potential involvement in a Feb. 7 truck accident in Hilo in which Penn may have been driving under the influence. Last August, footage was released of Penn being involved in a physical altercation at a bar.
Despite his personal turmoil and lack of success in the cage, Penn has been reluctant to announce a third retirement. However, he told Parillo that it’s becoming difficult to find a reason to fight again.
“I guess when you have something to prove that’s when you can fight the best,” Penn said. “It’s like, ‘Hey man, you already proved yourself.’ It’s not about proving myself, I just really like doing this. But you can’t go out and keep getting hurt. That just don’t make sense to anybody.”