The GOAT debate has raged on for decades, and many different athletes have been bestowed with the honor of being considered the greatest fighters ever in various divisions. For a long time, Penn (16-14) was considered the greatest 155-pound competitor the sport had ever seen. As he helped to put the division on the map in the UFC and reigned over it as its champion for two years.
However, that all changed during Khabib Nurmagomedov's (29-0) unbeaten rise through the industry and into becoming the UFC lightweight champion. He was the rare fighter to remain undefeated after so many fights, and dominantly beat some of the best 155-pound fighters of the last five years. Yet, despite all of that, Henderson (29-11) feels the Hawaiian still remains the best lightweight of all time "hands down."
Benson Henderson declares BJ Penn as the lightweight GOAT of MMA
"That's easy, hands down, BJ," Henderson told ">TMZ Sports on Saturday when asked who was the lightweight GOAT, "It's not even close. you don't even have to say his full name. [Just say] BJ, and you know who it is. He's the greatest lightweight of all time. Without a doubt, hands down. You can argue about this and that. You can argue statistics, and who they fought, yadda-yadda-yadda, but BJ's the man. I got mad respect for BJ."
'Bendo' explains why Penn is better than Khabib Nurmagomedov
"Bendo" was asked about the opinions of many who feel the Russian MMA icon's sparkling record and run in the UFC makes him the easy choice as the best 155-pounder ever. However, the 38-year-old felt their competition speaks for itself, and in his mind, Penn fought better fighters than the "Eagle."
"Of those 29-0 who Khabib fought, go look up the record of those 29 people he beat. Then go look at the records of the guys BJ beat. Go look at the records of the guys BJ lost to," said Henderson. "Go look at where they fought somebody at. Did they fight them early in their career? Some guy who was 3-4? I beat some guy who was 3-4 when I was 7-0, I mean, I don't place a whole lot of weight on that. It is what it is, to go 29-0 is amazing. But as far as me, my opinion, for what it's worth, I've got to go BJ. It's not even close."
Although Penn beat and lost to some amazing talents during his time in the sport, in many of those instances they were not fights at 155-pounds. His climactic matchups with Georges St-Pierre, Matt Hughes, Nick Diaz, Rory MacDonald, Renzo Gracie, and even Lyoto Machida all happened at other weight classes.
Surely his wins and losses against Frankie Edgar, Diego Sanchez, Takanori Gomi, and Sean Sherk were meaningful lightweight fights. But are they on the level of Nurmagomedov winning all of his fights against outstanding 155-pounders in Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, Justin Gaethje, and Edson Barboza? It is a fair question, but one that likely leans in the Dagestani native's direction.
Who is your choice for the MMA lightweight GOAT?