BJ Penn, 35, retired in the cage following a loss to Frankie Edgar in the main event of the TUF 19 Finale. At the post fight press conference he was asked to define his legacy, but, emotionally overcome, he simply put his head down.
Then Penn got stitched up, and was able to reflect on what he has accomplished. Penn cited winning a UFC belt in two divisions (only Randy Couture has done the same) and his rivalries with Matt Hughes (2-1), Georges St-Pierre (0-2), and Frankie Edgar (0-3).
“My best moment in the UFC, I guess now that I look back, it’s the two belts in the two weight classes,” said Penn as transcribed by Steven Marrocco for MMAJunkie. “I really wanted to see if I could make it three, but you’re talking about the best guys in the world.
“I think that’s what made my career something to watch is that I did have these rivals throughout the years. Everybody always talked about Roy Jones at the beginning of his career. He never had anybody to fight against, and that’s what makes a career great. I was actually blessed to have these rivalries with these three people.”
While Penn's 16-10-2 record is not extraordinary, numbers don't tell the story in MMA. Randy Couture's record is 19-11-0. If ever there was a sport that lives up to the promise in Grantland Rice's great poem, it is mixed martial arts.
For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost –
But how you played the Game.
“It would be the strangest thing,” said Penn. “I’d lose a fight, and I’d go walk down the road, and I couldn’t walk down the road. I’d say I’m getting more famous every time I’d lose a fight.
“People could connect with me; they felt that I was just a normal human being. In the off-season, I’m overweight, and I’m just trying my best, just like anybody else. I think the appeal was that here he is, he’s just a normal guy like us, and he’s giving it his all.”
Penn realized that it was time to retire, and why, in the cage, right before the fight was stopped in the 3rd due to elbows.
“When the blood started going in my eyes and everything and the fight started getting real tough, I realized it takes a high, high energy level to compete with the top people in the world,” said Penn. “You can have every technique figured out, you can have this and that and all your theories ready to go, and at the end of the line is you need a high energy to compete against these guys.
“They’re very hungry, they want to be the best. I can sit here a thousand times and say the sport passed me by, but there’s just such quality people in the UFC at the moment.
“You look at somebody like Frankie Edgar, and you think, ‘That little guy,’ but these guys, they want it. And even if you’re sitting there and you think you’ve got something figured out, or you’re going to surprise somebody with (something), first thing you’ve got to do is have more heart than these guys. That’s what all these people have a lot more (of). You can’t see that looking at them; you can only see it by feeling it.”