Despite being only 33 years of age, BJ Penn has spent more than 12 years as a professional fighter, most of those years in the UFC Octagon.
He’s fought as low as 155 pounds all the way up to heavyweight. He has even held the UFC lightweight and welterweight titles, respectively.
UFC president Dana White says that the Hawaiian fan favorite is a lock for the UFC Hall of Fame, but believes his conditioning habits have held him back from being considered among the greatest fighters of all time.
“If you look at BJ Penn’s career, count how many times he’s been in phenomenal shape,” White commented on Thursday.
“I love BJ Penn. BJ’s been a huge star for us for a long time, but I think BJ could have been in the talks with who is the greatest of all time.”
There are three key opponents in his career that have held Penn back from the Anderson Silva zone: Georges St-Pierre, Frankie Edgar, and Nick Diaz. All three are fighters that victories over would have propelled Penn to that elite status of the nearly unbeatable, but they’re also fighters that he has thus far been able to topple.
That’s not to say he’s not appreciated or respected. As White said, he’s a shoe-in for the UFC Hall of Fame.
“I’ve said it for years about BJ. BJ is (expletive) tough as nails, has an unbelievable chin, a rock head… if you look at some of the fights where he’s on the bottom, he’s getting smashed; the guy doesn’t cut. I don’t know what his skin is made out of. He’s just this kid that was born and built to fight,” White described the legendary fighter.
“He’s absolutely a Hall of Famer. Not only at the time when people were saying that the 55-pounders couldn’t headline pay-per-views and all this other stuff, BJ Penn became a huge, huge star.”
White did not clarify when Penn would be inducted, but considering he has been in and out of retirement during the past year, Penn is likely on the short list of next in line for the UFC honors.