Following potential USADA violation, what’s next for BJ Penn?


With news breaking that BJ Penn has been removed from the UFC 199 card and is facing a possible ban, the chances of “The Prodigy” entering the octagon again in the near future are looking increasingly unlikely. But the question is not if he will fight again, but if he should fight again. Despite the fact that Penn is a firm fan favourite, many MMA followers were of the opinion that a return to action would not be the best decision for the UFC Hall of Famer or his legacy. To put it into perspective:

Penn is 37 years old and his last fight was in 2014, when he was completely dismantled by Frankie Edgar. Prior to that, he racked up two losses to Rory MacDonald and Nick Diaz; while Diaz himself hasn’t exactly set the world on fire and last had his hand raised with the win over Penn in 2011. In his last five fights, Penn has lost three, drawn one (Jon Fitch) and won one. That win came almost six years ago against a heavily-deteriorating Matt Hughes, who himself retired after just one more fight when he lost to journeyman, Josh Koscheck.

“The Prodigy” earned his nickname from the extraordinary natural talent he possessed for all facets of MMA in his prime; being a fantastically-rounded technician with elite skills, who could hold his own wherever the fight ended up. The Hawaiian was outstanding on the feet and carried a set of hands that could trouble anyone, as exemplified by the fact that almost half of his 16 wins came via KO or TKO. But he’s also a 5th degree black belt in BJJ with a world title to his name, so if the fight went to ground then you’d have been wise to put your money where he lay.

No, the trouble with BJ Penn was never his talent as a fighter, but the way in which he applied that talent to his craft and training. Even in his younger days Penn was never the most athletic operator, and the general consensus is that he rarely found the motivation to rectify that problem in preparation for his bouts. He even went so far as to blame his former dietitian, Mike Dolce, for the shocking manner in which he lost his last fight. Penn is no longer in his younger days and should he be subjected to a ban for his transgressions, there’s a good chance he’ll be on the wrong side of 38 by the time he’s allowed to return.

Although it’s possible he has found a way to apply himself properly in training, there’s no reason to believe that a change in attitude will fix anything at this stage of his career. Six years on from his last win, “The Prodigy” will most likely move, think and act slower in the octagon than he used to as the sands of time sink further. Of his ten career losses, Penn has only been knocked out three times with each being a TKO. Considering the inevitable physical deterioration that comes with age and the beating put on him by Frankie Edgar two years ago, it’s also possible that his chin might not be what it used to be either.

It’s easy for outsiders to write off a fallen king as he attempts to ascend back to the top of the mountain he once ruled, but in this case the writing appears to be blatantly plastered across the wall. As wonderful as it would be to see BJ Penn once again grace the octagon, it just won’t be the same man that won UFC championships at two different weights and lit up both his opponents and our screens in equal measure. Penn may still mount a comeback at some point and I, for one, will most certainly tune in if that happens. His return would undoubtedly be good for the sport from a publicity and nostalgia standpoint, but what’s good for MMA is not necessarily good for BJ Penn.

Salon-quality hair and a right foot that could open a tin of peas. Twitter: @ahayde7