On last night's edition of UFC Tonight, Ariel Helwani unleashed a well-kept secret on the unsuspecting public: BJ Penn does not plan to retire (again) and is mulling over a return to the UFC's lightweight division.
While it may seem like yesterday for fans of "The Prodigy," the former lightweight kingpin hasn't won at 155-pounds since his brutal beat down of Diego Sanchez at UFC 107 in December 2009.
After that, the Hawaiian began a disastrous run in his career, going just 1-4-1 in his next six bouts.
As a matter of fact, the road got so rocky for the world renowned Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt that after his lopsided loss to Nick Diaz at UFC 137 in October 2011, Penn announced his retirement, per the Bloody Elbow.
Being the warrior that he is, Penn just couldn't resist when rising welterweight contender Rory MacDonald called him out roughly one year ago, per MMA Mania.
After several delays, the future UFC Hall Of Famer finally squared off with Ares at UFC on FOX 5 in December, getting battered for three rounds en route to another unanimous decision loss.
"B.J. is too tough for his own good," White said. "B.J. might not be knocked out, but the shots B.J. took would've knocked out a normal human being. He's had his head bounced off the canvas like a basketball by Matt Hughes, by Georges St-Pierre and then Rory just did it to him. B.J. Penn has left that octagon looking like a f---ing alien. 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 give him. It doesn't mean he hasn't been taking damage. He's taken a lot of damage, and I don't want to see him take anymore."
Despite the strong recommendation, Penn is likely going to refuse being "Chuck Liddelled" into retirement and will return to the Octagon before the end of the year.
Even though he lost consecutive decisions to Frankie Edgar in 2010, Penn boasts a pretty impressive 12-3 record at lightweight.
Even though he is a former UFC welterweight champ, Penn has just a 3-5-1 record at 170-pounds, and two of those wins came against Matt Hughes (and really only one of them was important).
Obviously, he is much better suited to be fighting at 155-pounds, especially at 34-years-old and 27 fights into his career.
With all that being said, who should Penn fight in his return to the Octagon? Undefeated prospect Khabib Nurmagomedov is up for the challenge:
khabib nurmagomedov (@khabib13) June 5, 2013
While the potential bout is at least a little thought-provoking, it's an awful idea. "The Eagle" is 20-0 in his professional MMA career largely due to his takedowns and relentless pressure.
Let's be honest: Penn doesn't stand a chance against one of the best rising lightweight prospects in the world, particularly because he comes from such a strong wrestling background.
So who then? Nate Diaz? Jim Miller? Takanori Gomi? All those fights certainly have their appeal, but what about a rematch with Sean Sherk?
Fans of Penn look at his decimation of Sherk as one of the submission specialist's vintage performances and one of the best victories of his career hands down.
At UFC 84, Penn easily outboxed "The Muscle Shark" for the better part of three rounds before unleashing a flying knee followed by a barrage of punches against the cage.
Sherk was beaten for just the third time in his career, but it was arguably the most definitive one to date. Nevertheless, as recently as March, Sherk has expressed interest in a rematch.
Here's what he told, ironically enough, BJPenn.com about his thoughts on a second fight with The Prodigy:
“I think that would be a lot of fun,” said Sherk. "...I think that would be pretty cool...A lot of factors would have to fall into play. He’s beaten the best of the best, and obviously he beat me so you know that would be something that would be a lot of fun.”
All the factors have fallen into play. Sherk hasn't fought in 33 months. He's 39-years-old and is definitely not going to come back and be relevant in the UFC's lightweight division all of a sudden.
Penn hasn't recorded a victory at lightweight in 42 months (he hasn't won a fight period in 31 months). He's 34-years-old, and whether you'd care to admit it or not, he's way past his prime.
His natural athletic ability is uncanny, but his work ethic remains questionable and the damage he's taken over the years is impossible to ignore anymore.
Also, keep in mind Sherk has a 36-4-1 overall record and has only lost to championship caliber fighters, so a win over the wily veteran still has some meaning even if his best days are behind him as well.
To the higher ups of the UFC: Penn vs. Sherk II is the fight to make if you want to see The Prodigy go out on a high note, win, lose or draw.
John Heinis is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA Editor for eDraft.com and contributes MMA videos to The Young Turks Sports Show.