UFC Hall of Famer and former two-division champion BJ Penn officially announced his return to the Octagon on Tuesday.
Per an interview on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani (via MMAFighting's Shaun Al-Shatti), the 37-year-old plans to take another shot at the 145-pound title belt and will work with trainer Greg Jackson. He said:
That's who I am, Ariel. That's who I am. That's what I do. I want to go get that 145-pound belt. That's definitely a huge motivation for me. I believe with Greg Jackson's help, I can get that done. And I believe that I will be able to walk away as the only man with three titles in three weight divisions.
I'm going through with this. If I didn't have somebody like Greg Jackson to come out and talk to me and tell me that I can do this... of course you're always going to believe that you're the best, you're always going to believe that you can be the champ. But once in a while, you do have to step back and get someone else's outside opinion.
Per MMAJunkie's John Morgan, UFC President Dana White doesn't yet have a potential opponent in mind:
John Morgan @MMAjunkieJohn
Just heard from @danawhite on @bjpenn’s planned return. Seemed supportive, though wrote via text, "I don't know when or who he will fight."2016-1-19 19:12:07
Penn's last outing in the Octagon was a disappointing loss against Frankie Edgar. His last win came in 2010, when he knocked out Matt Hughes.
He had a sensational career as an MMA fighter, which included an eight-year undefeated stretch as a lightweight, which came to a shocking end in 2010 during his first bout with Edgar, per ESPN.com.
He tried to reclaim his title a few months later and lost again by unanimous decision, a result that seemed to signal the beginning of the end for the Hawaiian. Penn won one more fight, against Hughes, but his last three bout have all ended in a loss.
In his final loss against Edgar in 2014, Baby Jay looked nothing like the legendary fighter who quickly became a fan-favourite during his prime. Here's a look at some of his highlights:
Penn and Randy Couture remain the only fighters to have ever held UFC titles across two weight classes at the same time, a feat Irish star Conor McGregor will try to accomplish when he takes on Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 197.
McGregor happens to be the man currently holding the featherweight belt, the one Penn appears to be targeting, setting up a fantastic storyline.
Whether the veteran ever gets that far is a big question mark, however. Penn was a fantastic fighter in his prime and his spot in the UFC Hall of Fame is well deserved, but for years, he hasn't looked like the pound-for-pound king people came to know and love, and even top trainer Jackson might not be able to beat old age.
MMAFighting's Marc Raimondi doesn't think Jackson would have started working with Penn if he didn't see something in the veteran:
Marc Raimondi @marc_raimondi
I’m still hesitant about a BJ Penn comeback, but I don’t see Greg Jackson getting behind him unless he thought BJ had something left.2016-1-19 19:21:06
Only time will tell, but at the very least, the return of Penn will give UFC fans yet another reason to get excited about the featherweight division. Between McGregor's possible return after his bout with Dos Anjos, Jose Aldo's revenge and the presence of Edgar and Chad Mendes, there should be plenty of moments in the spotlight left for Penn if his comeback is successful.