We've been debating the impact of his two straight losses to Frankie Edgar pretty vehemently around these parts, but there's been a great deal of discussion of B.J. Penn's future all over the net and I wanted to catch BE readers up.
First up, The Honolulu Star Advertiser:
For the second time in less than two years, and first at 155 pounds, we saw Penn manhandled to the point that it was almost tough to watch. Mouth open, gasping for air, eating combinations, getting taken down with ease, it was a bad night all the way around for the Penn camp.
It's up to him where he goes from here. He knows what it takes to fully prepare for a fight, and for his last two against Edgar, he hasn't been willing to do it.
He's spent all of his time in Hilo, working with the same group of guys that surround him every day.
If Penn is going to continue on from here, he has to first figure out if he wants it. If what it takes is to get back with Marinovich or find another team that will push him and make him better in ways he's not getting now in Hilo, is he willing to do it?
It could be just the post-fight blues talking, but I don't hear a man who's eager to climb back to the top and get his revenge on the lightweight champ. I hear a man who may be wondering how much longer he wants to keep doing this.
It's an especially delicate issue for Penn, whose desire has always been a greater impediment than his talent. Ever since he came on the scene in 2001, there's been no doubt as just how good Penn can be when he's motivated and well trained. The only question is, and has been for the last several years, will that be the Penn who shows up on fight night?
At 31, and with a career that hasn't involved too many damaging beatings, Penn could absolutely physically continue in the UFC. The question isn't whether he can make himself do it; it's whether he really wants to. That's the hard part. It's also the part no one else can help him with.
"There has been talk in previous losses about retirement. These are words that, he actually openly spoke out about retirement. My understanding is that he's not saying that now. He's gotten already past any possible point of saying I'm going to walk away from Mixed Martial Arts. So, BJ Penn fans, rejoice in that. He will fight again. What exactly his motivation is and where exactly he goes, what he accomplishes, I don't know, but can he rebound? I mean, can he find the form that he did 9, 10 years ago when he started in this thing, when he blew through people? I don't think so. I don't think so. Not unless there's a major shift in his life. He's a father now. He's got a young child. Married, I think married, but he definitely has a long-time girlfriend. I don't, I just don't see him recapturing what he had. I don't, I think it's very difficult if you're a fighter, especially someone who was anointed early on as he was, The Prodigy. I mean I think says it all in terms of what people's expectations were of BJ Penn. When you have that and all of a sudden you can't compete at the level that you once could, mentally you can't get up, you can't meet the challenge in front of you... I don't think BJ's the kind of guy that's going to fight until he can't do it any more. I don't think he's the guy that's going to be like a James Toney, 42, out of shape, looking for a pay day. That's not BJ Penn. He's never been that way, he's always expressed the exact opposite, he doesn't want to do that. So I'm, you know, I don't know."
As for B.J. himself, Penn says he "wants a fight as soon as possible."
We'll hear from Dave Meltzer and Sherdog about who should be next for Penn in the full entry.
Dave Meltzer speculates about what's next for B.J. Penn:
While a move to welterweight would give him a number of fresh matches with new name opponents, he was clearly too small and took a pounding the last time he fought at that weight, against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94. An in-shape Penn gives up a good 15 pounds to most in the division in the cage, and 25 to the major weight-cutters.
As a lightweight, booking him becomes difficult. Because of who Penn is and the money he commands, he has to fight stars. Penn would need a strong winning streak to get another title shot if Edgar becomes a long-term champion. But if Gray Maynard, Edgar's next opponent, wins the title, as long as Penn hasn't lost again, he would immediately be the contender people would most like to see challenge.
Meltzer's first assumption is that moving up to welterweight is not the right thing for Penn. Failing a Gray Maynard win over Frankie Edgar, Meltzer therefore eliminates rising contenders like Evan Dunham or George Sotiropolous since a Penn win would eliminate but not create a contender. If Frankie becomes a long-term champ, Penn is locked in the dreaded Rich Franklin quandary -- too good for most of the division, not good enough to beat the champ.
Meltzer considers Clay Guida and Takanori Gomi, but ultimately settles on Nate Diaz as the fighter he thinks is the best next opponent for B.J. Penn.
I have to disagree since I don't expect Nate to go back down to lightweight anytime soon.
Sherdog's Tomas Rios likes Guida next for Penn:
Trying to match Penn when he's coming off two straight losses is a vexing proposition for the UFC. Mainly because he's a valuable commodity, but the lightweight division doesn't have much in the way of easy fights that fans will find palatable either.
Guida solves that problem nicely. Lay fans would flock to see him fight his own reflection, and he's just enough of a threat to satisfy my inner matchmaking purist. Penn's two bouts with Edgar crystallized the notion that beating the prodigiously talented Hawaiian means staying in his grill and making him uncomfortable.
Who do you think should be next for B.J. Penn?