clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

DAMN! They Were Good: Debating B.J. Penn’s place in the pantheon of MMA all-time greats

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

BJ Penn
BJ Penn
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

DAMN! They Were Good celebrates the careers of the most exciting and influential fighters in MMA history, and on this episode, the MMA Fighting crew remembers the best of former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion, B.J. Penn.

As the first non-Brazilian to ever win gold at the BJJ World Championships, Penn entered the UFC in 2001 with an immense amount of hype — and over his 18-year career, the man named “The Prodigy” more than lived up to his moniker.

Arguably the best lightweight in the world at the time, just three years into his MMA career, Penn did the unthinkable, jumping up a weight class and submitting the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, Matt Hughes, to claim his first UFC title. After that historic win, Penn bounced around, chasing ever greater feats, like destroying lineal lightweight champion Duane Ludwig and then facing off with future light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, losing a competitive decision.

In 2008, Penn finally decided to stop chasing his fights of fancy and put his head down to stake out a legacy at lightweight, claiming the title with a win over Joe Stevenson to become the second fighter in history to win titles in two weight classes inside the UFC, and still the only man to win the lightweight and welterweight belts.

For nearly a decade, Penn chased greatness anywhere he could in a way that few ever have. That daring made him beloved to fans and respected among his fellow fighters. Even to this day, all time greats like Anderson Silva have called him the greatest fighter ever, and so for this edition of DAMN, host Jed Meshew is joined by MMAFighting’s Shaheen Al-Shatti and Eric Jackman to remember their favorite moments from “The Prodigy.”

New episodes of the DAMN! They Were Good podcast come out monthly and are available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and wherever else you find your favorite podcasts. This week’s episode can be heard below.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting