When B.J. Penn took a short retirement from mixed martial arts (MMA), not too many fight fans were surprised. He had seen most of what the sport had to offer, and he had a long, storied career. However, with a guy like Penn, you can never really tell when he's finally going hang up the gloves.
A little trash talk from rising welterweight, Rory MacDonald, seemed to be just enough to make "The Prodigy" come back to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for at least one more go. He accepted MacDonald's challenge, effectively coming out of retirement.
In June, their bout was the first one scheduled for UFC 152, and from the very start it was covered in controversy. Being that no other fights were yet rumored for the event, a collective groan could be heard from MMA fans who suspected it would be given main event billing.
Penn, clearly past his prime, would be stepping in against one of the 170-pound division's most promising young fighters. Penn is still a tremendously skilled fighter, but the fight just didn't have all that much luster. Don't get me wrong, B.J. Penn vs. Rory MacDonald is a very intriguing fight, but main event on a pay-per-view?
Luckily, the UFC came through with not one, but two fights that would take higher spots on the card, as Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann and Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez were added to the event.
With that bit of worry behind them, fans then got a chance to see the Canadian and the Hawaiian engage in weak trash talk, while Penn jumped through hoop after hoop to get VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) drug testing for their fight.
At one point, it seemed Penn had officially gotten VADA to drug test for their fight. He said everything was in order, and that he was satisfied with how it would play out. Then, shortly after, Penn's quest for VADA drug testing again took a bad turn, as it was announced that VADA intended to put out the results of the testing prior to the night of the event.
Of course, that would not bode well with the fight promotion, as the match up could potentially fall apart just days before happening if one fighter was to test positive.
Quickly it appeared that VADA testing would be impossible for their fight. Honestly, this was to be expected, as VADA is known for this kind of procedure. VADA's sole purpose is to prevent and root out PED use for athletic events -- it does not care whether or not those events actually take place. Penn was devoted to having them do official testing for his fight, and he even made some absurd suggestions in an attempt to keep it together, saying he'd pay them to release the results after the fight took place.
That makes no sense for a whole bunch of reasons, but that's for another discussion entirely.
Then, in early August, another disheartening dilemma put a wrench into the UFC's plans for this fight when MacDonald had to pull out of the bout. He sustained a deep, rough gash over his right eyebrow (see the pic here), preventing him from taking the fight just over a month away. Rumors swirled based on this development, but ultimately, people suggesting confounded conspiracies were just stirring the pot.
Finally, and perhaps unexpectedly after all of this, the fight was officially 'sponsored' by VADA. Details as to how this development came to be are unclear, but it happened. At this point, their match up was still hanging in limbo after it couldn't happen at UFC 152, so this announcement was especially odd.
Shortly after all of this, it was officially announced that MacDonald and Penn would be squaring off at UFC on Fox 5, and the fun bout that was originally scheduled for this weekend's card was pushed back by three months. Maybe it wasn't the most interesting fight on the card, but it was certainly a disappointment to see it go.
UFC 152 has had a lot of twists and turns. Not only is it the first UFC event in six long weeks, it has had many significant changes in response to some very unexpected circumstances. The strangest development, a topic that has been discussed to death, serves as icing on the cake, and I'll visit that in the near future.
Hint: It has a little something to do with a UFC 152 headliner and the first-ever cancelation of a UFC pay-per-view (PPV) event.