Several fighters have tried to get B.J. Penn out of retirement, but all have failed. Josh Koscheck couldn't do it, and he seems to have the perfect combination of fighting respectability and personal combustibility that Penn likes to go head-on with.
In the end, it was Rory MacDonald who did the trick in getting Penn interested enough in a fight to come out of retirement. MacDonald didn't have to be disrespectful or resort to name-calling. He simply asked for a fight, and he got it.
Penn further explained his decision to come out of retirement during an episode of Just Scrap Radio on his website, BJPenn.com:
So with that said, I like everything. I am definitely motivated for this fight. I like everything that's going on with this fight. Rory is one of the best guys—Firaz and everyone says he is going to be the champion in two years.
I'm not thinking about any kind of title runs. I'm just coming back and doing this fight, and I am pretty sure this is the last fight on my contract. I will have to go back and check again, but I think this is the last fight on my contract, and I would like to finish out my contract, so.
Penn is being brutally honest here. He has no desire to come back and become a title contender again, because he seems to realize that those days are long behind him. Good for him.
I'm intrigued by the fact that Penn was more interested in fighting MacDonald than he was Koscheck. With Koscheck, you'd have two guys who are on the down side of their careers. They both have the kind of magnetic personalities that would create a ton of interest in a pay-per-view fight, despite the fact that neither guy will likely ever be contending for a title shot again.
Are you interested in Penn vs. MacDonald?
Instead, Penn chose MacDonald, a rising welterweight prospect who many hail as the future of the division. He's a significantly tougher test for Penn than Koscheck would be. MacDonald's strengths in wrestling and ground control play right into Penn's weaknesses.
There's no upside for Penn here, but given his comments above, that doesn't seem to matter. He's looking to fulfill his contract and finish out his career, no matter what happens against MacDonald. But a win for Penn, even if it's the final pro fight of his life, would be quite the way to close out a stellar Hall of Fame fighting career.