“Why the hell is he coming back?”
That seems to be the main question being asked about the upcoming main event of UFC Fight Night 103. BJ Penn hasn’t fought since his odd performance against former rival Frankie Edgar. “The Prodigy” will face off against the red hot Yair Rodriguez, a tough challenge for anyone at featherweight. Rodriguez is a young hungry up and comer with a ton of upside. He’s unpredictable and dangerous for that very reason. Once again that same nagging question arises. Why the hell is Penn coming back to face this young hungry lion?
1. To secure his legacy
What has BJ Penn done really? He hasn’t accomplished all that much in the sport as far as I’m concerned. Beating the once thought unbeatable Matt Hughes for the welterweight championship ship. Not that big a deal. Winning the UFC lightweight championship with ease? Nothing to write home about. Truthfully, Penn hasn’t done all that much in the sport….
The theory that BJ Penn needs to secure his legacy with a win on Sunday night. BJ Penn has competed at a high level in several weight classes and acquitted himself well. He’s won both the welterweight and lightweight championships. BJ Penn is a Goddamn legend in the sport. That rules out this bout being a legacy fight.
2. To become champion once again
If you’re competing in MMA then the goal is to be champion. At least that’s the goal for some fighters. The truth of the matter is that while so many individuals compete in order to make a living, or at the very least supplement their income, BJ Penn comes from money. He wants for nothing. The idea that he’d be fighting for money is ludicrous. So he must be fighting to become a champion once again. It’s certainly possible and stranger things have happened. Being a three weight division champion would make him stand head and shoulders over the competition where legacy is concerned.
3. To realize his potential
This in my opinion is the reason for Penn’s return. BJ Penn has always been gifted, blessed with the uncanny ability to pick up on skills and techniques with venerable ease. He took to Brazilian jiu-jitsu with gusto and became a black belt in record time. He learned to box with sharp technique dominating a great deal of his opponents with superior skill. And it was all done while Penn wasn’t even pushing himself to the limits of his potential.
But as the game evolved Penn was forced to do the same. When he was under the tutelage of Marv Marinovich years ago we finally got a glimpse of the fully realized potential that was locked away in the former lightweight and welterweight kingpin. Though their partnership was for a short time, we saw in Penn a gas tank that seemed never ending, having the stamina to battle for five full rounds. Since parting with Marinovich we’ve seen Penn’s performances take a bit of hit leading to the current skid that he’s currently riding.
Penn understands that the well runs deep in regards to his talent. It’s fair to say that he’s only had one opportunity in which he reached the absolute pinnacle of his potential. Having the knowledge that he’s able to perform past his own expectations likely pushed him to give it one more go. Picking Jackson Winklejohn as his new base of operations wasn’t a mistake. It shows that he’s willing to go to a premiere camp filled with killers that are going to push him to his limit. Come January 14 we’ll see how effective the move will prove.
Do we see the old BJ Penn or will Yair Rodriguez tear his face off?