"I've got a daughter. I've got another on the way. I don't want to go home looking like this again. I'm done."
And with those words, one of the greatest fighters on the planet hung up his gloves and stepped out of the Octagon for the last time.
Being a relatively new father myself, I can understand the sentiment. Children shift a man's priorities radically. For Penn, training for six weeks followed by getting punched in the face for 15 minutes was no longer near the top of his "To Do" list.
While many feel we haven't seen the last of "The Prodigy" and the former champion was speaking merely out of emotion, I can't help but recall Penn's post-fight interview after his UFC 127 tilt with Jon Fitch. Squeaking out with a draw against the long-time welterweight contender, the Hawaiian spoke of retirement then as well.
At only 32-years old, he seems like he could just be entering his prime but a decade-long career has put unfathomable mileage on his body which, I guarantee you, is far more damaged than any normal man in his early 30s.
I truly believe the Hilo fighter has every intention of making his losing effort against Nick Diaz at UFC 137 his last appearance inside the Octagon. And if that's the case, he leaves behind one of the greatest and most exciting careers the sport has and likely will ever have.
Here's to you, "Prodigy."
Before he shook up the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), he was sending shockwaves through the Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) world.
He began training in 1997 under Ralph Gracie and after three short years had earned his black belt and was winning world championships in grappling, being the first American to do so. Penn had more than earned his nickname of "The Prodigy."
Following his impressive run through the world of competitive BJJ, the UFC managed to coax Penn into making his MMA debut inside the Octagon. We were finally going to see top-level BJJ in what was considered the modern era of the sport.
Or were we?
Penn knocked out his first opponent with seconds left to spare in the first round. Then he took on highly ranked lightweight Din Thomas who had impressive wins both stateside and in Japan. Penn knocked him out too.
Caol Uno was next on the chopping block. The Japanese fighter was the Shooto 154-pound champion and regarded as one of the best lightweights in the entire world. The young Hawaiian would surely have his hands full. 11 seconds into the fight, Penn connected with a flurry of punches that left his opponent unconscious.
"The Prodigy" was finally proven human when he lost to Jens Pulver at UFC 35 in a five-round war and then again three fights later when the previously easily felled Uno took him to a draw. His inability to beat "Lil Evil" and Uno -- for the second time -- took some of Penn's luster.
At UFC 46, he was eager to get it back.
Riding off the momentum of a three-round thumping he handed Takanori Gomi in Hawaii, Penn was booked against 170-pound champion Matt Hughes after the wrestler had seemingly run out of credible challengers in the welterweight division. It was Penn's first flirtation with weight jumping, a practice he continued throughout his entire career.
He choked Hughes out in the first round and capture UFC gold. But as quickly as his bicep flexed into his opponent's throat that night, he was just as quickly gone from the Octagon.
He signed with K-1 parent company Fighting and Entertainment Group (FEG) and was stripped of his title by the UFC. He spent his next four fights in Japan and Hawaii, fighting at welterweight, middleweight, and even as high as 191-pounds when he took on Lyoto Machida.
He finally made his return to the Octagon in 2006 and was immediately placed in a number one contender's bout against Georges St. Pierre. The Hawaiian dominated the first round but "Rush" was able to grind Penn out for the remaining 10 minutes and picked up the split decision.
Despite losing, "The Prodigy" was given a title shot after the French-Canadian suffered an injury during training. At long last, fans were going to see the rematch between Penn and Hughes.
Much like his bout with "GSP," Penn took the opening round at UFC 63 handily but faltered as the fight progressed. Trapped in a crucifix late in the third round, the Hawaiian was unable to defend himself against a barrage of Hughes' punches and the fight was stopped.
Faced with back to back losses for the first time in his career, Penn decided to return to the weight division he took by storm half a decade prior. And with a submission win over Pulver at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 5 Finale, he let every 155-pounder in the UFC know: "The Prodigy" was back at lightweight.
He won the vacant title at UFC 80 when he submitted Joe Stevenson and then Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian, and Diego Sanchez all fell at the feet of the mighty Hawaiian. The only blemish on Penn's record during this time was another ill-fated attempt at welterweight.
Penn seemingly had no equal at lightweight. It wasn't until he took on Frankie Edgar at UFC 112 that anyone proved up to the challenge "The Prodigy" provided. It was -- and still is -- a hotly debated contest which saw "The Answer" wrest away the lightweight title from Penn's waist.
If their fight in Abu Dhabi left any doubts, the rematch in Boston erased them all. Edgar thoroughly controlled the UFC 118 main event to make his first successful defense. "The Prodigy" had now lost two to Edgar, making a third match -- at least for the foreseeable future -- illogical. So Penn moved back up to 170-pounds to take care of some unfinished business.
The first matter was a rubber match between he and Hughes, a fight that ended in 21 seconds and with the Hall of Famer unconscious on the mat. The second matter was a third bout with St. Pierre and an opportunity for revenge. But standing in his way was American Kickboxing Academy product Jon Fitch.
Fitch has always been on the cusp of a second title shot but his fan-unfriendly style always put the kibosh on it. Both he and Penn knew their bout would help determine a number one contender.
Except it didn't. The bout was ruled a majority draw after "The Prodigy" took the first two rounds but gassed out in the third allowing Fitch to earn a 10-8 score. Neither got a title shot and both were booked against other welterweights while Nick Diaz was offered the chance to fight St. Pierre.
Fate intervened and the UFC 137 main event ended up being between the former Strikeforce champ and Penn. "The Prodigy" fought mightily but in the end, Diaz was too much to overcome. The Stockton fighter battered Penn's face to a bloody pulp in a record-setting performance.
His left eye nearly swollen shut from the damage he absorbed, Penn told Rogan he was done. The sacrifice has become too much for him, it seems. And no one can fault him. MMA can be the cruelest of mistresses, demanding so much and giving next to nothing in return.
There was no early period of Penn's career where he stalked the regional scene, evolving as a fighter with each fight he took. He exploded onto the scene on the sport's grandest stage and stayed there for 10 years. Almost more impressive than the list of fighters he bested is the list of men he lost to, all UFC champions at one point or another.
The Hawaiian was the perfect example of how far insane amounts of natural, raw talent can take you. And during his run as the 155-pound champion, that talent was combined with top-level training and produced one of the greatest fighters I've ever had the pleasure of watching.
Quite simply, there will never be another B.J. Penn.