Ariel Helwani's announcement on UFC Tonight on Wednesday (h/t Fox Sports) that former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion BJ Penn would be returning from a brief pseudo-retirement to serve as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 19 was met with a curious reaction, at least among those who reside on the Internet and consider their opinions to be hard facts agreed upon by the rest of the world.
Perhaps this is a bit harsh. But if I'm being honest with you—and what else do we have here, dear reader, except for the honesty between us?—I found the entire reaction a tad silly, if not downright ludicrous.
You'd think the end of the world was upon us, or at the very least that the UFC suddenly forgot how to make money. Or that Penn was somehow—after losing a few fights and looking lackluster in a weight class he never should have competed in—never as good as he actually was.
Because that's how things happen in this sport—a fighter approaches his twilight years and loses a few fights, and then everything he accomplished before didn't actually mean that much in the first place.
The biggest criticism I saw of Frankie Edgar vs. Penn 3 is that it was "pointless," and I realized that perhaps not everyone understands what the word means.
Here is The Free Dictionary's definition:
1. Lacking meaning; senseless.
2. Ineffectual: pointless attempts to rescue the victims of the raging fire.
You may not like the fight. Hell, given the reaction I saw from most of you, there's a pretty good chance that you hate the fight. Which I assume means you won't be watching next July when Penn and Edgar finally fight, except you will.
We all will. But that's neither here nor there.
Pointless would indicate that there's no reason for booking Edgar vs. Penn. Edgar has already beaten him twice, right? And so why would we want to see it happen a third time?
I can understand that line of thinking, and I'm right there with you in wanting to see both men fight other people.
But that being said, it is not pointless. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And if you think that Dana White—who stopped short of saying that the winner would face featherweight champ Jose Aldo—is not above putting Penn in there with one of the modern pound-for-pound greats, you've already forgotten Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen occupying 12 weeks of time on your television before Sonnen stepped into the cage for a wholly undeserved title shot.
Penn doesn't deserve Aldo. It's ridiculous to think otherwise. And I don't even know if Penn can make featherweight; after all, this is a man who struggled to make lightweight. He certainly has the frame, but the "motivated BJ Penn" meme was played out, oh, six or seven years ago. The proof is in the pudding, not in the talking that comes before the pudding.
But "deserve" isn't the point. Who deserves what is rarely what spurs the UFC decision-making machine, and nearly every person who follows the sport religiously is aware of that. Or, at least they should be.
The point of all of this, of the entire sport, is to make the UFC money. And Edgar vs. Penn, even on the third iteration, is going to attract casual fans much more than any other featherweight would taking on Penn or Edgar separately.
Well, except Edgar vs. Chad Mendes. That one would pull in hardcore fans and casuals alike.
I wish the UFC had been able to put together the deal for Edgar and Urijah Faber to coach the show. That's much more intriguing than seeing Edgar and Penn go for a third time or watching Penn try to recapture some of his former glory in a different weight class against a man who has already beaten him twice.
But that doesn't make the fight pointless. It has a point: to pull in television ratings on Fox Sports 1. To make the UFC some money, even if it's a nominal amount. And to attract eyeballs that don't spend their days on message boards, comment sections or Twitter.
Edgar vs. Penn isn't pointless. It isn't the best fight, but it's not the worst either. And if you're that adamant that you hate the idea so much, well, you always have the option of tuning out with your remote. Do it. Next summer, when the fight hits pay-per-view, don't watch it.
That's not going to happen, though. And we both know it.
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