Ariel Helwani is a polarizing journalist with a penchant for breaking big news and sometimes stirring the pot for the sake of getting sound bites. He’s divided audiences time and time again.
While many expect Helwani to focus on pulling in views even at the expense of authenticity, his latest diatribe came from a different place. The usually controversial and occasionally antagonistic reporter was spitting truth – from a place of logic, reason, and most importantly, compassion.
The topic of discussion was BJ Penn’s return. Even after UFC president Dana White promised fans Penn wouldn’t get a return to the Octagon after losing his seventh straight fight, it appears White has once again backtracked. Big surprise, right?
Now Penn is scheduled to face Nik Lentz later this year. Helwani would seem like the type of person who would relish seeing a legend back in the cage. After all, it’s a big name he can talk about and report on. However, he criticized the matchmaking, saying Penn should not be fighting and that the matchmaking was negligent.
“This is negligent. This man should not be fighting. This man shouldn’t have been fighting a long time ago.”
What makes matters worse is Penn’s next opponent. Nik Lentz isn’t gunning to challenge a legend like Ryan Hall was or avenge his coach’s loss in a sportsmanlike manner the way Clay Guida did. Lentz has said he has a personal beef with Penn. He doesn’t like him, and he’s coming to hurt him. With how Penn’s been fighting over the last few years, that could be a serious problem.
Helwani brought this up as well, noting how it was dangerous to put Penn in this situation. He also brought up great points about how aging legends on losing streaks were urged to retire. If Chuck Liddell and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira were both shown the door because of the overwhelming amount of damage they were taking, why won’t UFC management show Penn the same respect?
Does the once-feared fighter, two-division champ, and Hall of Famer have to die inside the cage before matchmakers finally say enough is enough? If Helwani’s prediction is true, win lose or draw, Penn will keep fighting as long as his body allows him to. It’s sad to say, but “The Prodigy” may see his body give out on him long before White decides to stop giving him fights.
Perhaps he’s afraid Bellator or ONE Championship will sign the legend to a contract, feed him cans, and make him a star once again.
If Penn’s thirst for the competition is what keeps him focused and away from his hard-partying lifestyle, why not go back to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Penn earned his nickname for his ability to take to this grappling art so quick. He could compete in it once again, and here he wouldn’t be getting punched in the face.
Per MMA Junkie’s Twitter, White seems content to keep giving Penn fights, even though Penn has absorbed more head strikes than any fighter in UFC history. White’s logic? If you’re not a doctor, mind your business. Stay classy, Dana.