BJ Penn: Why It's Lightweight or Nothing for the Former UFC Champ

Levi Nile@@levinileContributor IIIDecember 21, 2012

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27:  BJ Penn of the USA walks into the arena before the start of his welterweight bout agains John Fitch of the USA as part of UFC 127 at Acer Arena on February 27, 2011 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

So, BJ Penn appears to have the answer to the question that he seems to have been searching for: can he beat a Tristar welterweight?

He wanted to go into the belly of the beast to beat Rory MacDonald, and as a result he got thoroughly dominated by a younger fighter who was every bit as passionate as he was, who also possessed a sizable advantage in the reach department, and probably strength as well.

So, how does “The Prodigy” process that information? What does he do with it?

Hopefully, he uses it to realize that unless he is fighting at lightweight, he is simply going to be outgunned, relegated to stepping-stone status by any welterweight of reasonable skill and size who can push his buttons and goad him into a fight by slighting his considerable pride as a fighter and UFC champion.

Because to be honest, at least to this writer, it’s lightweight or no weight for BJ Penn when it comes to fighting at this stage of his career.

I honestly think BJ Penn can still be a force in the sport, but only if he can take the timeand hopefully some brutally honest counsel from those whom he respects and acknowledges as being of sound mindand commit himself toward the end of fighting as a lightweight.

Penn was at his very best at lightweight, and when you look at him as a welterweight, you can see why. As a lightweight, he was trim and able to fight hard for a full five rounds; as a welterweight, he’s soft, slow, all too hittable and his gas tank is greatly diminished.

The time for hard decision making in his career is now. It is not out of the realm of possibility that he could, with some training changes and a new dedication, become a force in the newly rejuvenated lightweight division, but he has to commit totally to this, not half way.

A change in camps would probably do Penn a world of good; training with individuals who are not subject to pleasing him, but to a higher ideal, like perhaps with Anderson Silva and the fighters at Black House.

But in the end, he has to want to choose such a road, because for some reason he’s seemed dead set on proving to the world that he can conquer the welterweight division, and that has been contrary to our experience as viewers.

I only hope it has been contrary to his experience as well, to a point where he longs for the days when he was at his best.

And that will only be found at lightweight.