“He didn’t say it tonight, but I think BJ is probably going to retire, and I wouldn’t mind seeing that.”
So said UFC president Dana White following BJ Penn’s loss to Rory MacDonald at UFC on Fox 5. That was five months ago, and despite a rash of recent retirement announcements, Penn has yet to make any declaration about his career.
Penn, however, remains silent.
“I want BJ Penn to retire,” White reiterated during a UFC 160 post-fight scrum with members of the media.
“You've won belts in two different weight classes. You're one of the greatest ever,” he continued, pointing out just a fraction of the legendary Hawaiian’s accomplishments. “You have money; you have a beautiful family.”
White understands why Penn finds it difficult to turn his back and walk away.
Penn has already tried. He retired following his UFC 137 loss to Nick Diaz, but returned little more than a year later for the fight with MacDonald.
The allure of competition and the allure of the crowd are magnetic.
“It's hard. It's hard to walk out of that,” said White. “That arena's packed, everybody's screaming your name, you're making tons of money, and it's hard to walk away from that.”
Warrior is an overused word in combat sports, but in BJ Penn’s case, none fits better… and that’s both a good and a bad thing.
It’s good in that Penn never quits, fighting to the final bell, entertaining the fans that have come to love him.
It’s bad in that Penn never quits, fighting to the final bell, often taken tremendous amounts of punishment.
“BJ is too tough for his own good,” White declared. “BJ might not be knocked out, but the shots BJ took would have knocked out a normal human being. He's had his head bounced off the canvas like a basketball by Matt Hughes, by Georges St-Pierre.
“BJ Penn has left that Octagon looking like a (expletive) alien. He's too tough for his own good.”
And that is exactly why White wants Penn to retire. He wants Penn to ride off into the sunset and enjoy his growing family before his warrior spirit gets the better of him in the Octagon.
“You don't knock out BJ Penn. BJ Penn absorbs every amount of punishment you can give him, doesn't mean he hasn't taken damage. He's taken a lot of damage and I don't want to see him take anymore.”