ANALYSIS: BJ Penn’s Forced Retirement a Stain on HOF Career
by Josh Pacheco
“I shouldn’t have came back. I shouldn’t have been in the ring tonight to compete with a top level (fighter) like Frankie Edgar.”
Those were the words of BJ Penn moments after falling in the third round of Sunday’s bout against Frankie Edgar on “The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale,” which aired on Fox Sports 1 from Las Vegas. Penn, who fights out of Hilo, was still sporting a large gash over his left eye which bled profusely during the bout, thanks to punches and elbows from his opponent.
Sunday’s conclusion was one that many local fans never wanted to see, but every time Penn stepped back into the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon, some of those same fans would voice their concern, wondering if Penn could still compete at the highest level of his sport.
It made Penn’s loss, his third in as many tries against Edgar, that much tougher to watch. Edgar landed 76 significant strikes to his opponent’s head, and much of those occurred while “The Prodigy” was laying on his back. It was so tough to watch that UFC President Dana White, who has openly stated his desire for the Kailua-born fighter to retire, left his front row seat before the end of the bout.
Worse, Penn never had a chance to get into the bout. He never had the chance to be aggressive in any facet of his strategy. By the time the third round started, Penn looked exhausted, making Edgar’s attempts to pass his guard easier and quickened the finish of the one-sided bout.
Less than three years ago, Penn was standing in the octagon following a loss to Nick Diaz at UFC 175 when, during an interview with commentator Joe Rogan, he first openly talked about retirement. “This was probably the last time you’ll see me in here. I can’t keep performing at the top level. That’s it, Joe. I got a daughter and another daughter on the way. I don’t want to go home looking like this. I’m done.”
He backed off of those retirement comments soon after, and returned to the cage at the end of 2012 in a loss to Rory MacDonald by unanimous decision. Sunday’s bout came into shape when Penn told White that he wanted a fight against his rival, which White gave him immediately.
No one questions Penn’s status as one of the greatest fighters ever to grace a UFC octagon. He has won championships in two different weight classes and has competed in other divisions, from the 145-pound featherweight division all the way up to the heavyweight class. His 13-year career and 16-10-2 record will stand as one of the most impressive in the sport’s history.
In Sunday’s post-fight press conference, Penn stated that “my lasting legacy now is going to be in highlight reels.” With all of the accomplishments and accolades, including his pre-UFC Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mastery, everybody’s lasting image of the former champion will unfortunately be of him on his back with blood gushing down the side of his face as referee Herb Dean calmly stopped Frankie Edgar from inflicting more pain on his helpless opponent.
Unfortunately for Penn, now at 35 years old, he didn’t get to retire on his own terms. He was pushed out the door by Edgar, showing that Penn could no longer compete with the UFC’s best when given the chance.
Now that he’s said he will retire, we can get the opportunity to reminisce about some of his best moments, including his 21-second victory over Matt Hughes at UFC 127 and wins over Renzo Gracie, Jens Pulver, and Kenny Florian.
But please, BJ, don’t change your mind this time.