BJ Penn is a former world champion in two weight classes. He's had epic battles against some of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport.
He's earned his place as a future UFC Hall of Famer, and his reputation as a "legend of the sport."
Following a one-sided third-round beatdown at the hands of Jon Fitch, Penn admits that he's once again pondering retirement.
Retirement talk is nothing new for Penn. He's talked about how he might have retired from the sport had he won his first title shot against Jens Pulver.
After he lost to Georges St-Pierre in their rematch, he revealed that had he won, he would have shocked the MMA world by retiring as the lightweight and welterweight UFC belt holder. Had that happened, he would have cemented his place in the mythology of the sport.
Now, Penn considers retirement for a completely different reason.
Following what by all rights should have been a loss to Jon Fitch, BJ Penn ponders whether he still has what it takes to reach those great heights that he's imagined himself winning.
That's a strange question for Penn to ask, but to answer it, it's worth considering a particular history-changing moment in MMA history.
At UFC 112, BJ Penn earned a decision win over Frank Edgar in the minds of many seasoned MMA observers. It was a close fight, but certainly one that could have been unconscionably and reasonably scored for Penn.
Instead, Edgar would get the nod and would go on to beat Penn handily in the rematch.
But what would have happened had the judges gone Penn's way?
Had Penn defeated Edgar, he probably would have beaten Gray Maynard, and right now might have been headed towards a fight with Anthony Pettis, in a fight where he'd be the favorite.
One small twist in fate was enough to derail all of that.
I don't know if Penn can beat Frank Edgar, but if Edgar loses, he's still not that far off from winning his lightweight belt back.
Also worth considering is the caliber of Jon Fitch.
For all the grumbling surrounding the man, he's a perennial pound-for-pound talent and arguably the second best welterweight of all time.
Getting beaten up by Fitch isn't a slight against BJ Penn, but just further testament to what we should have already known about Fitch.
There are still plenty of elite welterweights whom Penn might be able to beat.
People love Penn because he dares to be great. He does so because he could never be satisfied with being anything less. He'd never be satisfied with being an also-ran.
Despite getting beaten up by Fitch, Penn still is a great fighter.
He can still accomplish great things in MMA.
Are those things great enough to keep Penn motivated to fight on?
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!