BJ Penn has had one of the most successful runs in UFC history.
He's asked where was his 10 fight winning streak. With his mentality he never could've had one. Despite being sometimes severely outsized at welterweight, "The Prodigy" took fights with bigger guys that others shy away from. He could've stayed at lightweight where he held a 11-3-1 record and dominated everyone not named Frankie Edgar. He could've taken carefully picked opponents at welterweight and looked great defeating them.
However, he took the road less traveled. BJ always took the best fighters out there. He fought an undefeated Lyoto Machida that weighed 220 pounds, took on a much larger GSP, and also took fights at middleweight. In a sense, BJ got in his own way. His warrior mentality that everybody knows and loves lead to lots of damage and a poor end to a historic career.
Whether it was Rory MacDonald punishing him with body punches and kicks or Nick Diaz wailing away at him, he never gave up. If he were to end his career right now he'd be one of the only fighters ever to never get knocked down in his entire career. One of the only fighters to step up and fight guys a weight class four classes up from where he belongs.
For that BJ should be remembered as one of the all-time greats. These days guys need $50 million to fight in a catchweight bout. BJ would just pack on the cheeseburgers and make it happen.
For all of the naysayers who say that BJ lacked motivation in some fights, I dare them to find someone else in the UFC today that has his resume and still takes on the challenges he has. Anderson Silva stepped up to light heavyweight and fought Forrest Griffin, James Irving, and Stephan Bonnar, all while refusing to fight Jon Jones. BJ has stepped up to fight GSP twice, Hall of Famer Matt Hughes twice, and a prospect in Rory MacDonald that not many people want a piece of. Many people are afraid to lose. BJ welcomed the challenge of going out to win.
With all of that said, unfortunately Father Time has come knocking at BJ's door. He's not going to be licking blood off of his gloves anytime soon and his days of contending for a Championship are very well over.
Despite the struggle and ineptitude of his final appearances against much larger and stronger competition, remember BJ as being quite possibly the last true warrior of the Octagon. Remember him as one to never back down from a challenge no matter how much larger his opponent was or how bad a matchup looked on paper. BJ Penn always came to fight.
Some people will leave BJ out of the conversation with the Anderson Silvas and GSPs of the MMA world. In a way it's warranted because he will never be what Anderson and GSP are.
And maybe that's a good thing.
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