“B.J.” Penn is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion and a two time, two division mixed martial arts champion currently fighting for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Penn was introduced to the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) at the age of 17 by his longtime friend and teacher Tom Callos. The introduction to the art of BJJ eventually brought Penn to Northern California, where he trained under Ralph Gracie and rose to the rank of purple belt. With an obvious knack for the sport, Penn quickly ascended through the BJJ belt rankings. Through his tutelage at the Brazilian based Nova Uniao Jiu-Jitsu academy B.J. earned his black-belt from Andre Pederneiras in just three years of training in the Brazilian martial art, an honor that takes most practitioners 10 or more years.
After placing third at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships in 1999 in the brown belt division, B.J. returned the next year and became the first non-Brazilian in history to win first place in the black-belt division of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship held in Rio de Janeiro.
After such a quick and amazing run in the world of BJJ, Penn was nicknamed “The Prodigy” and was ushered into the sport of professional mixed martial arts. He made his professional debut with the UFC on May 24, 2001, in Atlantic City at “UFC 31: Locked and Loaded” against Joey Gilbert. It took Penn under five minutes to secure a victory over Gilbert via TKO and simultaneously launch his career into the world’s fastest growing sport.
On Jan. 31, 2004, Penn faced a man who at the time was on a 13-fight winning streak and seemed near invincible after six successful title defenses inside the UFC octagon. It was this fight against Matt Hughes at “UFC 46: Supernatural” that Penn secured his first UFC title. It took Penn just 4:39 to best the champ and end the fight after a dominating opening and a quick rear naked choke to secure the victory and the UFC welterweight belt.
At “UFC 80: Rapid Fire” Penn defeated Joe Stevenson to finally earn the 155-pound title that had eluded him twice before. B.J. then successfully defended his title three times before an eventual decision loss to Frankie Edgar at “UFC 112: Invincible” on April 10, 2010.
Since losing his lightweight title Penn has returned to the UFC’s welterweight division where he successfully finished a trilogy fight at “UFC 123: Rampage vs. Machida” with Matt Hughes. Penn scored a knockout victory over Hughes in just 21 seconds of the first round to claim the trilogy between the two legends, 2-1.
He then followed up that victory with a No. 1 contender bout against Jon Fitch at “UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch” on Feb. 27, 2011, which ended in a majority draw.
Penn is now scheduled to face Nick Diaz at UFC 137 on Oct. 29 in Las Vegas.
Outside of his martial arts career, Penn has appeared in film, on radio and has a New York Times bestselling autobiography entitled Why I Fight: The Belt is Just an Accessory. http://www.amazon.com/Why-Fight-Belt-Just-Accessory/dp/0061803650
He has also co-authored one of the most sought-after martial arts instructional books, which is titled Mixed Martial Arts: The Book of Knowledge, http://www.amazon.com/Mixed-Martial-Arts-Book-Knowledge/dp/0977731561
Penn also owns a gym called Penn Training and Fitness in his hometown of Hilo, Hawaii. With a clothing line, a host of endorsement deals and other family-run businesses Penn is not only a fighter, but a savvy entrepreneur as well.