- Earned his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt in three years.
- First non-Brazilian to win gold in the black belt division at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Brazil.
- UFC welterweight and light weight champion.
- Second fighter in UFC history to hold belts in multiple weight classes (Randy Couture).
- Headlined a total of 11 main-events.
- Defeated Matt Hughes twice.
- Fought former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida in a catchweight fight where Machida weighed 225 pounds.
BJ Penn retires with a 16–10–2 record. To the young fans out there who did not have the opportunity to watch him will see that record and think he’s highly over rated. Another legend in the sport, Randy Couture retired with a record of 19–11. Again, on paper, that’s not as impressive has his stature in the sport would indicate. Like Couture, Penn’s impact and accomplishments greatly overshadows his record.
Penn is widely considered the greatest lightweight fighter in MMA history. He was a true pioneer when it comes to the lower weight classes. Many believe (me being one of them) that without the impact of BJ Penn, there would be no lighter weight classes in the UFC. His fights against Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian, Diego Sanchez, Jens Pulver, and Joe Stevenson put the lightweight division on the map.
Outside of his accomplishments as a lightweight, he made a huge impact in the welterweight division as well. His feuds with Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre were legendary. In his 170-pound debut at UFC 46, Penn choked out Matt Hughes to win the UFC welterweight championship. He would later finish off a trilogy with Hughes at UFC 123 where he knocked him out in just 21 seconds. At UFC 56, he lost to Georges St-Pierre in a title eliminator and almost took out the great GSP in the first round. Even though Penn was never able to get the better of GSP, their rivalry will go down as an all-time great.
Of course, you can’t break down all the “great” without talking about the “bad.” I feel his biggest downfall fighting at welterweight was his training. When you are BJ Penn and sitting on top of the world in Hawaii, it’s easy to lose focus in a training camp. He lacked the training and cardio to hang with the greats at 170 pounds. The size of the fighters at welterweight had a lot to do with it, but his cardio didn’t always seem to hold up. It hurts me to say this, but there will always be questions on how much better he could have been. He was a legend of the sport as it is. Imagine if he put everything he had into his training throughout his career.
Regardless of any of that, BJ Penn will always go down as my favorite fighter in MMA history. When he was at the top of his game there was no one more fun to watch. He was truly the definition of a mixed martial artist. He had the ability to finish fights standing and on the ground. The thing I loved most was that he finished fights in a very violent manner. If the opportunity to finish the fight was there, you know BJ Penn was going to go for it. His finishes of Caol Uno, Joe Stevenson, Sean Sherk, Diego Sanchez and both over Matt Hughes were things of beauty. Call me crazy, but I also loved it when he would lick the blood off his own gloves. BJ Penn was a savage in the cage and it was awesome.
Steven Grossi is a digital video producer who likes to write a little. He’s a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, hardcore MMA fan and a total wrestling nerd. He usually has a strong opinion on anything combat sports related so give him a follow on twitter @GrossiMMA.