His fall, such as it was, came when the company, too, faced dark days. His phoenix-like rise also coincided with the MMA boom, with Penn dominating the lightweight division just as the sport exploded in popularity.
But man, alas, is mortal. While the UFC can last until the end of time, Penn's career cannot. As the end nears—and this Saturday's showdown with Rory MacDonald may end up being the final significant fight of his illustrious career—it's time to take a look back at the moments that made the "Prodigy" one of the most memorable fighters in MMA history.
The following snapshots of a fighting life, in chronological order, are the moments we'll always remember. Click with me for the best of BJ Penn.