Despite some concerns from fans that his best days are far, far behind him, BJ Penn is coming back.
The man known as “The Prodigy” is set to make his UFC return at UFC 232 on December 29. He’ll be taking on Ryan Hall in a lightweight bout.
Penn has recently discussed his return – saying the sport is his wife, and opening up about his controversial decision to come back.
Penn is a former lightweight and welterweight champion, and was only the second man to ever hold UFC titles in two different weight classes. He’s fought at numerous other weight classes, including heavyweight, and holds a record of 16-12-2. His upcoming opponent has a record of 6-1, and is undefeated in his UFC career.
Penn last fought back in June of 2017 when he took a majority decision loss to Dennis Siver at UFC Fight Night 112, marking his sixth loss in a row. The last time he won a bout was in 2010, when he scored a 21-second knockout victory over old rival Matt Hughes, effectively moving to 2-1 over his fellow UFC Hall of Famer and coming out victorious in their trilogy.
Penn’s UFC career has been known for two things – standout performances and lackluster showings. While he had many impressive wins, he faced accusations of a lack of motivation and poor training methods throughout his career.
Living up to his nickname, Penn has always shown an immense amount of natural talent. A standout in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he earned his black belt in less than three-and-a-half years. That’s a feat that can take twice as long in some cases.
He also took to boxing very quickly, establishing himself as a well-rounded fighter. After winning the lightweight title from Sean Sherk and defending it twice against Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez, Penn established a title defense record that still stands at 155-pounds.
After his win over Hughes that saw him capture the welterweight crown in a massive upset, Penn went back up to try his luck against the new welterweight king Georges St-Pierre. They would mean twice, with GSP winning on both occasions.
Penn also took on Lyoto Machida at heavyweight, turning in a very competitive performance against a man that would be the future UFC light heavyweight champion. He also holds notable wins over PRIDE FC lightweight legend Takanori Gomi, as well as members of MMA’s legendary Gracie family.
Penn is a UFC legend, and despite his somewhat unimpressive record, it is his willingness to fight anyone at any weight class that has made him so revered. There are concerns that his fearlessness could pose threats to his health, but Penn will push forward despite those fears at UFC 232.
The card is set up to be a big event. It will also feature the super fight between women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg and women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, as well as a light heavyweight bout between Corey Anderson and Ilir Latifi.