BJ Penn is back.
The one and only “Prodigy,” who scored UFC titles in two weight classes, is officially returning to the Octagon. The first non-Brazilian to win the world championships in Brazilian jiu-jitsu is back on the mats.
It seemed the sun had set long ago for BJ Penn. But… maybe not.
Last time this happened, back in 2013, I described the mixed emotions:
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.
I was being reasonable, and I was proven right, sadly. Penn struggled in his training, had a horrid performance against Frankie Edgar — and sank back to retirement. We all said our thank yous, Penn was elected into the UFC Hall of Fame, we waxed poetic about it all… and life went on.
Today? Strangely, that all seems a distant memory.
But then, maybe it’s not just that he’s back — he’s doing something new.
Penn, who has been criticized for being lax in his training (particularly later in his career), isn’t training in the comfortable confines of his Hilo, Hawaii academy this time.
Instead, Penn has been toiling away in New Mexico with the Jackson/Winkeljohn team, alongside the likes of Jon Jones and John Dodson.
He provided photographic evidence on his Instagram account:
BJ Penn is back. Again. For the first time, since his days at American Kickboxing Academy to train for his first MMA bouts of the early 2000’s, “The Prodigy” is with a major camp. (Did you forget? Franks Shamrock and company cornering BJ in his first UFC appearances? Shame on you…)
He’s back. Again.
And… this time? To hell with being reasonable.
I love it.
I miss the guy. I miss the passion he brought from a time no one became a fighter hoping to become famous. I miss the guy who famously said, “birds fly, fish swim, and I do this,” about being a fighter.
“That’s what I am,” Penn said on an appearance on The MMA Hour earlier this week. “That’s what I do. I want to get that 145 lb belt. That’s a huge motivation for me. I believe with Greg Jackson’s help I can get that done. I believe I will be the only guy to walk away with three titles in three weight divisions.”
“I think of it as another step in his evolution,” Jackson said to MMA Fighting. “I don’t think he’s rehabbing anything. I think he’s just beginning to evolve again. He’s no any more of a challenge or less of a challenge than anybody else. It’s just another challenge.”
Does it sound a little crazy? Sure. But then, BJ is younger than current UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. Maybe there’s time for another challenge. Besides, as I wrote back in 2014, BJ is that champion that made you believe in the impossible.
Why not… just one more time?