5 Defining Moments: B.J. Penn

By Mark Raymundo Dec 20, 2018

UFC 232 is now available on Amazon Prime.

Some itches can’t easily be relieved.

Take the case of Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Famer B.J. Penn, who is making yet another comeback as he faces fellow jiu-jitsu phenom Ryan Hall at UFC 232. As “The Prodigy” approaches his 29th professional fight, let’s look back on some of his career-defining moments.

1. Jiu-Jitsu Prodigy

Penn started training Brazilian jiu-jitsu when he was 17 years-old in his native of Hawaii. After about three years, he accomplished an unprecedented feat, earning his black belt from Andre Pederneiras and becoming the first non-Brazilian to win the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships (typically, it takes an average practitioner around 10 years to get his black belt). News of a jiu-jitsu prodigy reached the UFC, who convinced Penn to venture into MMA. Then on May 4, 2001, Penn made his professional debut opposite Joey Gilbert.

2. Exacting Revenge

Early UFC lightweight king Jens Pulver dealt Penn the first loss of his young career at UFC 35. They first met at a time when Penn was already making a name for himself, having quickly disposed of Gilbert, Din Thomas and Caol Uno. And while Penn came close to beating Pulver, the champion made it clear that his title reign wasn’t over yet as he won by majority decision. With enough motivation, Penn submitted his rival when they met again at “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 Finale.

3. Landmark Trilogy

When Penn moved up to welterweight to challenge Matt Hughes for the title at UFC 46, he knew he was facing someone with a legendary status. Hughes had defended the championship five times and was running out of competition. But Penn did the unthinkable and choked out Hughes in the first round. Hughes then compiled five straight victories before meeting Penn in a highly-anticipated rematch at UFC 63, where he stopped the Hawaiian with a flurry of punches. Their rubber match at UFC 123 wasn’t as thrilling as Penn knocked Hughes out in just 21 seconds.

4. Two-Division Champion

As aforementioned, Penn submitted the highly favored Hughes in their initial encounter to take the UFC lightweight belt. Then at UFC 80, he became only the second man at the time to win titles in two different divisions by knocking out Joe Stevenson in a bloody encounter. The Hawaiian celebrated by licking Stevenson’s blood off his gloves, in what is now an iconic highlight.

5. Remarkable Duels

Penn was poised to give Georges St. Pierre the toughest fight of his career, and he did just that when they met for a title eliminator at UFC 58. Still, his efforts weren’t enough in the eyes of the judges as he lost by a disputable split decision. St. Pierre went on to capture the welterweight title, but when they rematched at UFC 94, Penn had already built a legacy. This time, however, St. Pierre appeared more prepared, forcing a corner stoppage after four rounds.

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