You may have read here, or elsewhere, that BJ Penn is said to be considering a comeback. Again.
Like a lot of old fans, I felt mixed emotions about it. Again.
I also thought about the article I wrote a few weeks back about the 2006 loss which preceded Anderson Silva’s 17-fight winning streak, a loss to Yushin Okami in Hawaii at Rumble on the Rock 8.
Another staple on those great old shows was none other than BJ “The Prodigy” Penn, who had just left the UFC after winning the welterweight title. I wonder how many readers remember those days. He and Takanori Gomi were #1 and #2 at lightweight, and Penn dominated him at Rumble on the Rock 4.
Sure, you’ve seen BJ Penn. But do you remember “The Prodigy?”
He’s the greatest lightweight in MMA history, and one of only two fighters to win UFC titles in two weight divisions. He was also the first non-Brazilian to win the World Championships at black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
I’d love to see him again, of course.
We just haven’t seen him in a while. The last few years, we saw a guy who is several steps slower; often looking confused and out of condition after a round or two.
I remember him well, though. Back in December 2007, BJ working so hard he was underweight. Imagine? This video from his old site tells the story.
It may seem silly to get nostalgic over a website. But, in the late 2000s, BJPenn.com had something special: a mix of instructional videos with BJ narrating what you might call “lifestyle videos” which followed his everyday life. Now, it’s an excellent MMA news site. But it doesn’t have that charm. It isn’t an unusual resource for a fighter or a unique voice for a fan.
It changed with the times. MMA is a (more-or less) mainstream sport which needs news pumped out by the minute on social media. It’s not a small subculture anymore.
I read a fan once describe the change in MMA’s landscape in the 2000’s as “we lost a culture and gained a sport.” It’s as good a way to describe it as any. But there’s no going back.
Do you remember how BJ looked between May 2009 and May 2010? BJ Penn began working with strength and conditioning coach Marv Marinovich. Marinovich was previously famous for the perception that he pushed his son Todd too far, who turned to drugs and alcohol after a legendary career at USC. As seen in this video, Penn would gush about his new trainer: “I’ve seen all the workouts anyone could possibly make up… Marv Marinovich made me something I wasn’t before.”
That was when Penn enjoyed his career peak. They parted ways prior to the first bout with Edgar in 2010, which began Penn’s slide.
Earlier this year, Marinovich posted an old pic of his days with BJ Penn on his Twitter account. Immediately, it was erroneously reported the two were back together and excitement grew. Marinovich tweeted, “It’s just a throwback pic… but you never know!”
So what do we know now? BJ is talking comeback again. We’ve heard it before, preceding the Nick Diaz bout which turned disastrous after round one, and the Rory McDonald fight which was a disaster from the opening bell.
It would seem he doesn’t have the motivation to sustain a training camp anymore. But why should he? He built a spectacular legacy. He’s a different guy, with a family now. What does he have to prove?
Like I said before, there’s no going back.
Maybe, the former welterweight champion and the greatest lightweight of all time should just let it be.