BJ Penn officially ends retirement, eyes UFC Featherweight championship

On Tuesday morning, one of the most beloved legends in the sport of MMA, “The Prodigy” BJ Penn,  dropped a bombshell on the MMA landscape after announcing his plan to return to active competition, and will do so with new head coach Greg Jackson at the helm. Penn made the announcement on the MMA Hour show with Ariel Helwani while also making clear what his goals are in his return:

“That’s who I am, Ariel,” Penn told host Ariel Helwani. “That’s who I am. That’s what I do.

“I want to go get that 145-pound belt. That’s definitely a huge motivation for me. I believe with Greg Jackson’s help, I can get that done. And I believe that I will be able to walk away as the only man with three titles in three weight divisions.”

According to UFC President Dana White confirmed he’s talked to Penn about his potential return and supports the idea, but he said nothing has been decided on as to what is next.

Penn (16-10-2, 12-9-2 in UFC) is a former UFC Welterweight and Lightweight champion and is regarded as one of the greatest lightweights of all time. Penn is also the only man still to have ever challenged another title holder while holding the status as champion when he fought Gerorges St. Pierre at UFC 194 for the UFC Welterweight championship, a feat Conor McGregor will look to be the second man to attempt and the first to succeed.

Penn is one of a hand full of fighters that has fought across three divisions in the UFC. Having fought from Featherweight to Welterweight, Penn has always faced top quality opponents throughout his career and is infamous for his fearless attitude in always taking on the best anytime, anywhere. Penn has faced the likes of Matt Hughes, Diego Sanchez, Sean Sherk, Frankie Edgar, Rory MacDonald, Nick Diaz, and Georges St. Pierre over the course of his storied career.

Penn will be looking to make his return with Greg Jackson as his new head coach and is currently already training at his New Mexico training center preparing for his return. Penn had some insightful comments as to his seriousness in taking Jackson as his head coach and as to why Jackson should be willing to put in the effort to drive Penn towards possible third UFC championship.

“I made sure to tell Greg, I let him know the other day that if I can’t do this, Greg, in any way, shape, or form, you feel that B.J. doesn’t belong in the ring, please let me know. Please let me know. And he’s very confident that we can get something done. With somebody like that, who has so many champions himself and who has does as well as he has in this sport, when he tells me that: ‘I know you can go out and I know you can beat all these guys,’ it gives me a lot of confidence.”

“I don’t want to be a shell of my former self,” Penn said. “And I told Jackson that if I can’t do this, you let me know. You come straight to me, Greg. You see me sparring one day, you look at me and say ‘this guy don’t got it anymore,’ pull the plug right now. I got a wonderful life back in Hawaii. I love my life. But I love fighting more.

“I realize what I’m up against. I’ll go out right now and give all my respect to these guys. These guys are animals. These guys are the best athletes in the world, and I want to go and take my place among them.

“When you get the dice, just roll it,” Penn added. “That’s what I’ve done my whole life. That’s what I’ve done my whole career. That’s why people remember me. All these people are talking about this and that. If I cared about legacy, I would’ve never fought all these guys. I would’ve never took these fights. I think they’re confusing me with someone who actually cares. I don’t care about that stuff. I just want to scrap. I just like fighting. I couldn’t care less about any of that. It doesn’t mean nothing. I’m not going to retire early to try to go out on top. That’s not me. I’m going to go down in front of everybody, and people are going to talk, and people are going to say, ‘thank you for showing up.'”

Penn called out former featherweight Nik Lentz via Instagram last week and gave many fans a slight heads up about his return. Nik Lentz has since yet to really give Penn or the fans a real answer as to whether he would accept this fight other than under a plethora of conditions, one involving that he and Penn fight at Lightweight, not Featherweight. Penn however remains focused and ready to make a determined effort to claim his third divisional UFC championship and looks to Heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum as his prime inspiration.

“I would probably say I got two years left,” Penn said. “Two years left, 37 and 38. That’s what I would say. Who knows what happens? I’m a natural athlete. I’ve been a natural athlete my whole life. Maybe I did decline naturally. Maybe I just never gave myself the best opportunity that I should’ve, to go out and beat these guys. And the game changed so quick on me, Ariel. I’ll sit here as a man right now and I’ll admit that: the game changed so quick. These guys became so hungry, and all these different things added up.

“I’m coming back for honor. I’m coming back to do this, give everything I got, and when I look back, everybody is going to say: ‘you know what? B.J. f**king did it. B.J. f**king stepped up. He didn’t talk the talk and not walk the walk. He stepped up, and he gave it his best effort. A lot of people might say, ‘you should’ve done this 10 years ago.’ Hey, you know, there is a time and a place for everything. There’s a time and a place. I’ve only been fighting one fight a year for the last three years, and I think I saved a lot of myself there. I think I saved myself. How old are UFC champions? (Fabricio) Werdum is my age. I think this is going to be good, Ariel. I think this is going to be good.”

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