B.J. Penn Retires: The Bright Side to a Sad UFC Career Finale
At some point, there’ll be a series of stories detailing the twilight years of broke, crippled, former UFC fighters.
B.J. Penn will thankfully, hopefully, not be one of those stories.
Thanks to a career-long friendship with UFC president Dana White, not to mention a historic legacy inside and outside the Octagon, Penn will be one of the promotion’s few fighters who retires with plenty of money and a (relatively) clean bill of health. Between the two, the latter is just as important as the former.
If it wasn’t obvious, B.J. Penn—a broken-down, 35-year-old fighter coming off a year of ring rust—should never have gotten in that cage.
Unlike the Hawaiian superstar, Frankie Edgar is still in his athletic prime, more than capable of beating several top-tier fighters in at least two divisions. It was a grim reminder of the difference between him and Penn, as Edgar effortlessly landed punches at will, completed takedowns with no resistance, and brutally beat Penn into a bloody pulp on the cage mat at The Ultimate Fighter Season 19 Finale. Even Penn had to later admit the uselessness of the bout despite his legendary ego, realizing that he was foolish to try and defeat a younger, stronger fighter who clearly had his number.
And so, B.J. Penn is now retired.
But for all the horror stories that MMA gives us, Dana White offered some surprising levity to the situation, reminding people that B.J. Penn has an essential UFC pension:
“B.J. does [have a UFC job].
“We did a UFC Gym with B.J., y’know. That’s no joke. He’s a partner in that thing, and it’s kicking ass.
“He comes in, shakes hands, kisses babies, and walks around the gym, and then leaves. It’s not like he’s in there training people and scrubbing the floors, cleaning the mirrors. B.J.’s doing all right.”
As horrific as Penn’s last few fights have been—and the last two were definitely a nightmare to cringe through—it’s good to know as a regular UFC customer that the man who built the lightweight division isn’t going to worry about money in old age or anything else for the rest of his life.
Keep in mind, not every UFC “Legend” gets that same deal.
Ken Shamrock faced poverty, legal troubles, and an assault charge before becoming a celebrity bodyguard. Frank Shamrock remains scrubbed from UFC history. Tim Sylvia’s stuck somewhere in Maine or Iowa, hoarding fast food coupons and old copies of UFC 59 on DVD. Tito Ortiz randomly shows up at UFC Fan Expo events hoping that people remember him. And if you walk around the right parts of the regional MMA scene, you can still hear fairly recent stories about Tank Abbott fighting in smokers with a shirt on.
So as bad as we want to feel for B.J. Penn, let’s just give the UFC some rare credit for giving him the greatest gift of all—the ability to never fight again.
McKinley Noble is an MMA conspiracy theorist. His work has appeared in PC World, Macworld, GamePro, 1UP, GamesBeat, Cox Sports, Bleacher Report, CNN, and The Los Angeles Times. Follow him at @KenTheGreat1 on Twitter.