Las Vegas, Nev. - BJ Penn suffered two losses to Frankie Edgar in his career. The first of which cost him his lightweight title in 2010. So, when it was announced that Penn would be fighting Edgar for a third time after coaching opposite one another on The Ultimate Fighter reality show, many fans and pundits simply wondered: “Huh?”
The saving grace of Penn vs. Edgar 3, was the fact that this bout would be contested at featherweight – a weight that Penn fans hoped would rejuvenate their stoic hero and allow for the aging legend to retire on his own terms. UFC President Dana White let it be know pre-fight, that if Penn did not come out victorious, he would ask him to step away from the sport.
As it turns out, the weight made little difference. Penn came out to met Edgar seemingly unmotivated, complacent and simply put: Awkward. Soon after Edgar landed the first combination, it became painfully clear that this fight would be no different than their previous outings.
By the third round, the raucous crowd inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center had given up chanting Penn’s name. The night had begun with energetic chants. Even with the upper bowl of the arena vacant, the reception received by Penn was reserved for even the most tenured legends. It was deafening.
Unfortunately for Penn fans, Frankie Edgar has made a career of silencing BJ Penn supporters. And on Sunday night, he made the 11th, 12th and 13th round of their trilogy, feel an awful lot like their first 10, as Edgar earned a 3rd round stoppage after bludgeoning Penn for the entirety of the contest.
Round 1 was a continuation of their previous fights, as Edgar used ultra-quick combination punching and an early takedown to control his opponent. When Penn was on his feet, he stood straight up with his chin completely exposed. With his protruding chin serving as an obvious target, Edgar landed at will – both on the ground and on the feet.
Rounds 2 and 3 were no different. Penn stood around, looking ho-hum and managing little offense. Edgar teed off whenever the opportunity presented itself. By the start of the second round, Penn had developed welts under both eyes, and was showing the wear and tear of a decade-plus career. It seemed his heart wasn’t in it, and post-fight, he confirmed what most had already thought.
He shouldn’t have been in the cage.
“I shouldn’t have came back,” said a bloodied and battered Penn to UFC announcer Jon Anik. “I shouldn’t have been in the ring tonight. “
Penn immediately referenced Dana White’s comments about his looming retirement, and humbly mirrored the President’s thoughts, “I gotta agree with him at this point.”
And just like that, one of the greatest fighters to ever compete in the sport of mixed martial arts was gone. He humbly stepped away and exited the cage doors. He walked by media row with his head held high, despite the beating handed out by Edgar. He seemed content and he seemed to be completely aware that his time had run out. It was undoubtedly a sad moment for BJ Penn fans, but just like everything else in his legendary career, Penn did it on his own terms: with honesty and dignity.
A former two-division champion (one of only two in the company's history), BJ Penn has left a championship legacy that few will be able to match. When lighter weights meant nothing, Penn made them relevant; he carried the division. No matter what the sport holds in the coming years, there will be only one BJ Penn. A man who fought anyone, at any weight, Penn will be remembered for his confidence, his passion and his truly Prodigy-like rise to championship status in the early 2000’s. At a time when the sport was wondering, “What’s next?” BJ Penn laid the blueprint for future mixed martial artists to follow. And every single fighter that steps foot in the Octagon going forward owes “The Prodigy” a debt of gratitude. It’s just a shame he couldn’t thank his fans in the same way. It was undoubtedly a performance that Penn would like to forget, however, when people think back on BJ Penn, the fights with Frankie Edgar will be a footnote to his enduring legacy.