B.J. Penn is ending his retirement. Again. The former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion announced his plan to return to the cage yesterday on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, and it sounds like he’s in it to win it. Via MMA Fighting:
“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.”
“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.”
That’s Greg Jackson he’s talking about, who coaches more than a dozen of the best MMA fighters out in Albuquerque, New Mexico, including Jon Jones and Holly Holm. Penn’s return announcement wasn’t much of a huge surprise to those paying attention, as he’s spent the last couple of weeks in New Mexico working with Jackson to “see if he’s still got it.”
It’s a similar situation to what Georges St-Pierre got up to with his own test camp late last year. Since then, we haven’t heard from GSP, but B.J. has never been one to hesitate before jumping into anything. This is his second return from retirement … the first was after losing to Rory MacDonald in 2012. He returned in 2014 to fight Frankie Edgar and lost by third-round knockout, prompting him to retire again.
Here’s hoping a move to Albuquerque gets him into the right headspace he needs to be in to return as a top contender. But maybe before he gets into the cage with any more Frankie Edgars (or welterweights like Rory MacDonald and Nick Diaz!), the UFC will give him a slightly less difficult test. Maybe if he starts with an opponent outside of the top five meat grinder, he’ll have a chance to build himself back up. And then if he still loses, he’ll know without a shadow of a doubt it’s time to hang up the gloves and leave them hung up this time.