B.J. Penn has held UFC titles in two weight classes. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com
From time to time, a fighter comes along and looks so impressive in spots that he inspires an almost cult-like group of believers in his ability. Penn is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon. When the 22-year-old jiu-jitsu champion exploded into the UFC, knocking out tough opponents in mere seconds with strikes, he made fans believe he could do anything. His setbacks would be forgotten or excused, and his greatest wins would become the stuff of legend: the time he moved up in weight to stop Matt Hughes at Hughes’ best, the devastations of Sean Sherk and Diego Sanchez, the time he decided to fight a 225-pound future light heavyweight world champion by the name of Lyoto Machida. Penn was not just a great fighter. He was the sort of unique talent capable of creating a unique mystique that made people hope against hope and believe in him to the very end.
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