It's never an easy decision for an athlete who has competed at the highest levels of his or her chosen sport to finally call it a career and declare retirement.
Legendary football players like Brett Favre have come back more times than a horror movie villain because the thrill of competition isn't an easy addiction to overcome.
For fighters, the thrill of victory comes with the highest highs, while the agony of defeat reaches the lowest of lows.
Former UFC welterweight and lightweight champion B.J. Penn appears to be at a crossroads regarding his future in the sport of mixed martial arts. First appearing in the UFC all the way back in 2001 when he was just 22 years of age, Penn's career has stalled lately with some brutal defeats in recent fights.
Twenty-seven fights in his career, most of them in the UFC Octagon, and Penn's body has taken some serious damage over the years, and that's why UFC President Dana White hopes the Hawaiian icon will soon make the decision to retire from the sport.
"I want B.J. Penn to retire," White told reporters after the conclusion of the UFC 160 post-fight press conference.
White says he's talked to Penn recently but not about his potential retirement. In the case of someone like Penn, White will usually wait for him to make the call to say he's ready to compete again, and then they will start formulating ideas for a matchup.
This time around, White hasn't talked to Penn about a fight since his UFC on Fox 5 loss to Rory MacDonald at the end of 2012, and he's hoping that call doesn't necessarily come either.
Over his last six fights, Penn has gone just 1-4-1, with his lone victory coming over recently retired former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes. Penn's last two fights have seen him battered around the cage by both MacDonald and Nick Diaz.
In his fight with Diaz at UFC 136 in 2011, Penn absorbed a whopping 178 significant strikes, according to FightMetric, with 257 total strikes landed. He didn't do much better against MacDonald, who unloaded 116 significant strikes.
The record books read that Penn lost both fights by unanimous decision, and at no point did he ever go down or ask for the fight to be stopped. White believes it's that kind of toughness and the ability to absorb so much punishment that's led him wanting Penn to walk away right now.
"B.J. is too tough for his own good. B.J. might not be knocked out, but the shots B.J. took would have knocked out a normal human being," White stated. "He's had his head bounced off the canvas like a basketball by Matt Hughes, by Georges St-Pierre. B.J. Penn has left that Octagon looking like a f—king alien."
White continued, "He's too tough for his own good. You don't knock out B.J. Penn. B.J. Penn absorbs every amount of punishment you can give him, doesn't mean he hasn't taken damage. He's taken a lot of damage and I don't want to see him take anymore."
White knows that it's tough for anyone to say that's enough and call it a career, especially a proud fighter like Penn. Add to that the feeling that goes along with a big fight, and White understands it's never an easy decision to make.
"You've won belts in two different weight classes, you're one of the greatest ever. You have money, you have a beautiful family," White said about Penn. "It's hard. It's hard to walk out of that. That arena's packed, everybody's screaming your name, you're making tons of money and it's hard to walk away from that."
As of now, Penn has made no formal declaration about his future from fighting, although he is still in the gym training regularly. The UFC hasn't booked him for another bout, and as of Saturday night, White says there are no plans in place to put Penn's name on a fight contract on an upcoming card.
Whether or not Penn is ready to say the word "retirement" remains to be seen.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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