On Saturday June 4th Rory Macdonald was on the MMA Hour Podcast with host Ariel Helwani when he respectfully called out UFC legend and currently semi-retired BJ "The Prodigy" Penn. BJ has been hinting lately that he would be open to a possible return but it would have to be the right situation. On Tuesday June 5th BJ Penn accepted that challenge and it is possible this fight could take place in Toronto at UFC 152 on September 22, 2012.
Josh Koscheck recently made an attempt to coax Penn back to the cage but you can just tell that fight really did not interest BJ in the least. No disrespect to Kos, but that fight had no real career gain to Penn. if he wins it's against a fighter who is really not in the title picture at all in my opinion. If he loses then Penn will really look finished.
Pros of returning against MacDonald
- Coming back on his own terms in a fight that seems to interest him.
- If he can win it would automatically put him back in the mix of top contenders in the Welterweight division. Especially when all the dust clears by next year and either Carlos Condit, Martin Kampmann, or Johny Hendricks is the champion then Penn will be in a good position for a title contention because he has not fought any of these fighters yet.
- Has a significant experience advantage over the 22 year old Macdonald. Has fought in multiple title fights in multiple weight classes.
- Knows that with the exception of his die hard fans, most fight fans and media critics are not giving him much of a chance against the younger, stronger, and maybe even more disciplined Macdonald. This can be the motivation he needs to really come into this fight with the right mindset and game plan to pull off what would be a major upset in my opinion.
- In the Nick Diaz fight what got BJ into big trouble was the stand up skills and constant barrage of offense that Diaz was putting on him. Let's just say Macdonald does not posses anywhere near those type of hand skills! In that fight if you remember the 1st round, Penn held his own on the ground with the longer limbed Diaz and it was a close round to score. If he can get Rory in a precarious position early in the fight while Penn is still fresh and Macdonald is not all slippery from perspiration who's to say he can't submit the more inexperienced fighter.
- His legacy as a UFC legend would be solidified with a win against such a hot prospect and GSP protege. Penn is most likely a future UFC Hall Of Famer anyway considering he held titles in 2 weight classes and defended his belt multiple times as well, but this will leave a lot less doubt in people's minds.
Cons of returning against MacDonald
- With Penn returning to the cage against Phenom Rory Macdonald and as a Welterweight it shows to me that he does not want to cut the weight necessary to compete in the Lightweight division right now. That means his cardio might not be where it will need to be to hang with this determined beast in a long match. I truly feel, as do many other fight fans that the best BJ Penn possible is without a doubt a BJ Penn with abs! That means he is most likely training with the Marinavich brothers where he will be jumping out of pools and what not! This will prepare him to be at his strongest, mentally and physically.
- A bad loss to Rory, meaning a fight where BJ gets beat up bad again like he did against Diaz could really hurt his ego and cause him to hang em up for good. That would be a real shame for everyone involved!
- Like I mentioned earlier in the Pro's part of the article, was the effect this fight can have on his legacy. A bad loss could damage the memory that some people have of him as a fighter. Especially to the younger less informed fans who only look at his record and see he would have 9 losses.
- Macdonald's size can be a real issue! He is known as a big welterweight who when he fights will probably be somewhere around 185-195 lbs! If Penn gets anywhere near those numbers he really will be in trouble!
- Let's say Penn beats Macdonald then what? If GSP or let's say Nick Diaz is the champion next year he will never get a title shot against either one of those guys. George St-Pierre has beat him twice already and Diaz has that recent convincing win as well.
My opinion on this matter is while I am excited to see one of my favorite fighters get back in the Octagon and engage in a scrap, I just feel he is biting off more than he can chew, and will suffer a loss in this match. Make no mistake, Rory Macdonald is a future champion either at Welterweight or even Middleweight.
I just don't see why if BJ really had made that decision in his head to come back he couldn't just train hard for a few months, and see if Benson Henderson retains his title against Frankie Edgar. Then make his long awaited return to the 155 lb division and automatically put himself in a top contender match with a guy like Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. Or even a great rematch with the returning Sean Sherk! I can even see him against top contender Anthony Pettis or interesting match ups with Jamie Varner or Evan Dunham. These would be feasible matches for BJ as well. It is not impossible though that Penn has a strong showing against Macdonald, and even if he loses can have the option to move back down to 155 and finish out his storied career there!
Regardless of his choices, BJ Penn will always have my respect and the respect from all his peers. Best of Luck.