SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27: BJ Penn of the USA walks into the arena before the start of his welterweight bout agains John Fitch of the USA as part of UFC 127 at Acer Arena on February 27, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
B.J. Penn has been around the fight game for over 11 years now. During that time, "The Prodigy" claimed both the welterweight and lightweight world titles with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) organization and has competed 21 times inside the Octagon.
Involved in classic battles with current 170-pound kingpin Georges St. Pierre, former champion Matt Hughes and most recently Nick Diaz at UFC 137 last October, Penn has always lived up to the famous quote he bears across his t-shirts, 'Just Scrap,' leaving it all inside the cage each time out.
A true pioneer of the sport and a future hall of famer, "Baby J" will go down as one of the best to ever compete in mixed martial arts (MMA) and a true legend of the sport, as well.
However, all of classic bouts and mesmerizing techniques displayed during his fighting career may have never happened had it not been for one man:
B.J. recently sat down with Sherdog and revealed that he never intended to do MMA as full time career. He actually just wanted to fly around the world and do seminars for a living and teach at his own gym. A loss to Pulver at UFC 35 for the promotions 155-pound title back on Jan. 11, 2002, however, changed the course of direction for Penn.
Penn reveals the details, after the jump:
"I just wanted to do my three fights, Joey Gilbert, Din Thomas, Uno, Pulver, beat Pulver, get the belt, stop, never fight again and just teach sometimes and be a business man, a regular person living a regular desk job. Then when people say, 'Oh, the UFC,' and I say 'Oh yeah, I used to be the champ one day, way back in the day.' But, then Jens beat me, kept me in around the game forever, all the way until today. I really was going to retire if I beat Jens. I would have won the jiu-jitsu world championships and the UFC world championship, but Jens beat me and kept me around the sport all the way to today, kept me going. I was just trying to avenge the loss my whole life, still to today, that night, just trying to avenge that night, you know. That's just how it is though. At the end of the day, I know after the whole ride is done and the whole UFC thing and the whole living the dream and all that is done, I'm going to go back to do what I wanted to do in the first place which is to teach at a gym and do seminars. So, it's all going to come full circle in the end."
The Hawaiian scrapper eventually went on to avenge that loss to Pulver, choking him out in 2007 at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Finale 5 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Announcing his retirement from the sport after suffering a unanimous decision loss to Nick Diaz last October, "The Prodigy" looks to show the world that he still has enough in the tank to hang with the stars of today as he returns to the Octagon to take on rising Canadian star Rory MacDonald at UFC on Fox 5 on Dec 8, 2012.
No word on how much longer Penn intends to compete in MMA after the bout, but one thing is for sure, had it not been for Pulver, fans around the world may have not ever witnessed and have gotten to know one of the best fighters of this era.
So for that, we say, thank you Jens.
Can you, as a fan, imagine how the landscape of MMA would have changed in the 155 and 170-pound divisions had Penn hung up his gloves way back in 2002?