At UFC 137 we saw one of the greatest mixed martial artists ever get battered and bruised by another organization's welterweight champion.
"The Prodigy" BJ Penn went from being one of the greatest lightweights ever to a shell of himself who is 1-3-1 in his last five fights.
All of his opponents were worthy competitors. Jon Fitch and Nick Diaz are currently two of the top welterweights in the world. Frankie Edgar is, of course, the current lightweight champion and one of the best fighters in the world.
Penn's only win was against an over-the-hill Matt Hughes. While it was exciting and impressive, it didn't bring us back to the BJ Penn that was licking his opponent's blood off of his gloves.
Where did that BJ Penn go?
It is fair to say that Penn is fighting a weight class above his natural one. However, he is a former welterweight champion. We will never forget that he beat Matt Hughes when Hughes was the class of the welterweight division. We won't forget he pushed Georges St. Pierre to his limits at UFC 58.
Penn has fought in multiple weight classes and has never shied away from fighters who are naturally bigger than him.
Some have questioned his motivation. The MMA forum meme of a "motivated BJ Penn" being able to beat anyone may not be too far from the truth.
When Penn looks on, he appears to be a vicious, unstoppable force. Joe Stevenson and Diego Sanchez probably still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because of that BJ Penn.
At this point in his career the lack of motivation may come from a feeling of no place to go.
Penn appears to be outclassed against the top welterweights at this point. Even if he was able to work his way up the ranks again, what is really waiting for him?
Another shot at GSP? St. Pierre has already beat Penn twice and a third match just doesn't seem to make sense for either fighter.
If Penn is looking back at lightweight he sees that the man who dethroned him and won the rematch is still holding the gold. Frankie Edgar is a huge road block on the path back to lightweight for "The Prodigy."
In my opinion, Penn needs to go back to his roots. He needs to take his freakish athleticism and masterful skill set back to the lightweight division.
There are several worthy competitors at this point that could put Penn back on the path to a rematch with Edgar. A motivated BJ Penn would add a whole new exciting variable to an already stellar lightweight division.
Imagine Penn versus Gil Melendez or Ben Henderson?
Unfortunately, Penn's future is up in the air. Even though he has since backed off from his post fight comments of retirement, the future of his MMA career is questionable at best.
The question of what has happened to BJ Penn will remain a mystery.
Yet, there is still time for "The Prodigy" to answer a new set of questions. There is still time for BJ to be BJ again.
As a MMA fan, I hope that time comes sooner rather than later.
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