UFC President Dana White hit the nail on the head during the countdown show leading up to this past weekend’s UFC 107 card when he said that lightweight champion B.J. Penn is doing it for the one and only reason anyone should be, to be forever remembered as one of the greatest fighters of all time.
B.J. didn’t grow up not knowing where his next meal was coming from, but exactly the opposite. It just so happened that this was one kid from Hawaii that was born into a family that was not hurting for money by any stretch of the imagination.
Now with the millions he has reaped through his time spent in mixed martial arts, combined with all of the fame and glory that could possibly come along with being a recognizable and marketable UFC champion of 2010, B.J. stands as a true living, breathing example of hard work and dedication. A man that could easily fade off into a never ending barbecue in the Hawaiian sunset, content with his hefty bankroll and champion status, with nothing more to prove.
Nothing left to prove to some perhaps, but B.J. still has some proving left to do to B.J.
Penn’s prolonged, one sided beating of a more than game and talented Diego Sanchez last Saturday evening cemented the legacy of Penn as one of the most dominant champion’s of a weight class going into the next decade, but something tells me that’s not going to be enough for B.J. No, I feel B.J. will not be content until he’s recognized as the single best fighter on the planet, along with being remembered as one of the most dangerous men to walk the face of the earth.
At thirty-one years of age, the question has to be asked is this: Is there any end in sight for “The Prodigy” in the next two, three, or even five years? In my opinion the answer to that question is simple; B.J. will continue to reign as champion for as long as he can stay focused. I’ve said it a hundred times before, and I’ll end up saying it again years from now when Penn either sees defeat or retires; The only man that can beat B.J. Penn at 155 pounds is B.J. himself.
I for one, found it hilarious when Joe Rogan hypothetically asked if the only challenge left for Penn was Shinya Aoki during the UFC lightweight title fight. The same Shinya Aoki that is expected to make his Strikeforce debut in early 2010. Talk about free press. We never heard, nor did I expect to hear about Fedor Emelianenko following Brock Lesnar’s UFC 100 demolition of Frank Mir, and I guess I was just as surprised to have heard the “Tobikan Judan” referenced in this case.
Either way, to mention the skinny spandexed submission specialist in regards to opponents that have a snowballs chance in hell to upset the reigning champion seems laughable at best. I don’t care how many times I have to say it, but Shinya Aoki is, in my opinion, the most overrated fighter in mixed martial arts. Tremendously talented, but tremendously overrated. The fact that Aoki trumps lightweights such as Kenny Florian, Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar in most respectable polls is absolutely mind blowing.
I personally feel like the interest in a bout between B.J. and Shinya will be greatly diminished sometime in early 2010 when either Josh Thomson and Gilbert Melendez have had an opportunity to teach Aoki the difference in size and wrestling between American and Japanese fighters over at Strikeforce. But if Penn vs. Aoki is what the people want, and the UFC can somehow put it together, I’m watching it.
While Edgar and Maynard have both earned a crack at the UFC lightweight title, I find it extremely hard to get excited about the prospect of either fighter facing off with B.J. anytime soon other than, of course, to see one of the best champion’s in the sport what he does best.
Florian looked great on Saturday night too, and it’s no secret his ultimate goal is to somehow avenge his recent defeat to the champion, but do you really think even Kenny wants any part of B.J. again right now? I doubt it.
So who’s next for Penn? I say who cares. The fighter that will beat B.J. years from now will be someone not on the current lightweight radar. Who knows, maybe it could be a prodigy much like B.J. himself. A prodigy of the new generation perhaps Possibly even a twenty-three year old Brazilian kid currently making the same waves in the WEC that the Hilo kid made in the UFC when he began his fighting career at the same age.
Only time will tell, but for now, the champ is here, and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.