B.J. Penn: Learning To Appreciate An Original

By E. Spencer Kyte

It’s time to stop arguing and appreciate a true legend at work

Every time B.J. Penn prepares to enter the Octagon, the same string of stories and commentaries surface, describing the former multi-divisional champion as “an enigma” or “polarizing,” discussing whether not “the real B.J. Penn” will show up.

I should know, having followed those paths half-a-dozen times myself here at HeavyMMA.com.

While all of those angles are valid and a result of a career spent alternating between amazing and underwhelming, there comes a time when you have to step back from wondering what could have been or what might come next, and simply enjoy Penn for what he is, a truly one-of-a-kind fighter.

This new way of looking at Penn is a shift in perspective for me, having spent a long time being frustrated by the duality that is “The Prodigy,” a fighter who can go from unbeatable to uninterested from one fight to the next. That possibility still exists; he could just as easily follow up his 21-second knockout win over Matt Hughes with a sub-standard showing against Jon Fitch on Saturday.

By wondering what will happen and what it all means in the grand scheme of things, a scheme that isn’t actually all that grand considering how relatively young a sport this is, we’re missing the forest for the trees.

Penn is an original, a throwback to guys who fought to prove something to themselves above all else. While we’re all busy trying to break down how Penn’s loses outside of the lightweight division contribute to his legacy, the kid from Hilo is preparing to challenge himself once again, stepping in with the second-best welterweight in the world.


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