Anytime I think of BJ Penn, I almost always take his work for granted, and pass over it like it's no big deal. I didn't consider myself a BJ Penn fan, at all. He was never my favorite fighter, though his persona was always great. What was it I didn't like? Was it his body of work? No, that wasn't it, it's full of legends, and win or lose, were all great fights.
Was it his level of excitement in the octagon? Was it lacking? Not that either. I'll never forget Penn licking blood off his gloves.
I recall several of his fights that had a long lasting memory in terms of MMA's impression upon myself.
It all started when I was watching UFC 34 (Not live) with some friends, and first witnessed BJ beat Caol Uno. And not only beat, he absolutely obliterated him. I just remember yelling "Holy shit! Who is this guy?" Probably one of the best short fights I've ever seen.
UFC 46 rolls around. Matt had been the champ for 5 straight defenses, and at the time regarded as the greatest Welterweight to ever compete. BJ Penn strangled him to take his belt, in a higher weight class. Again, thinking to myself "What the hell? Dude's a lightweight, how did he beat a massive welterweight?" BJ had impressed me again, but it never really stuck.
UFC 58: USA vs Canada. BJ loses to GSP. At this point, it was a very close fight. Basically if you talk to 10 people, 5 say he won, 5 say he lost. I was a huge GSP fan at the time (don't fault me, I'm Canadian.) I felt GSP dug deep and pulled out the win with pure grit. BJ would fade into obscurity as a favorite fighter of mine.
UFC 123: BJ Penn going into that fight was a dark horse to win. He had just lost to Edgar twice, a string of defeat that possibly would demotivate any man to compete. When Matt hit the canvas, I screamed for Penn to finish him (Not a huge fan of Hughes if you hadn't noticed.)
BJ would then string 3 more losses, including the final one to Frankie Edgar. Surely the guy who I never favored was finally gone, but then something weird happened.
As I look back on his career, and my time as an avid MMA watcher, I had realized one thing.
I'm a BJ Penn fan.
Weird to think that it took an entire career to win me over, but in all reality, looking back at it, I was always a fan, I just didn't acknowledge it.
Thank you BJ Penn. Win or lose, you were fun as hell to watch.