B.J. Penn, one of two–along with Randy Couture–two-division UFC champions, retired from mixed-martial arts (MMA) on Sunday night. The MMA legend called it a career after taking a beating from Frankie Edgar in their featherweight fight.
Penn retires with a 16-10-2 record that understates his impact on the sport. He took on all comers at all weights. Penn, perhaps a natural lightweight, fought Lyoto Machida when the Brazilian karateka weighed in at heavyweight and lost to Georges St. Pierre a second time at welterweight after the significant size differential witnessed in the first match made the outcome of the second a fait accompli.
This Ahab-like fixation on righting wrongs on his record disastrously came into play in Penn’s third-round TKO loss to Edgar–his third defeat in their trilogy–on Sunday night. “I don’t know about ‘fixated,'” Penn said about his alleged Edgar obsession in last week’s UFC conference call. “I believe everybody out there would want another shot at somebody who beat them.”
On the conference call, Penn responded to a Breitbart Sports question on drug cheats by blasting the “ends justify the means” mentality among some of his peers in MMA. “That’s not my morals,” Penn said of performance-enhancing drugs. “That’s just not me.”
Though often overwhelmed by physical disadvantages, Penn employed outstanding Brazilian jujitsu, developed perhaps the best boxing in MMA–famously displayed in his lightweight title defense against Diego Sanchez–and exhibited cerebral qualities that awarded him an edge over bigger, faster, and stronger opponents. In a career that started at UFC 31 and finished after UFC 175, Penn achieved notable triumphs over Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, Matt Serra, Sean Sherk, and Takanori Gomi.
Penn called it “the end” after losing to Edgar, explaining why he didn’t do so after his one-sided beating to Rory MacDonald last year. “If I didn’t make this night happen, I would have always wondered,” the Hawaii native explained. “I would have complained to everyone, ‘I could have done it again! I could have done it again!’ Now, I know for sure that I can’t.”