Despite appearing outwardly friendly toward one another, UFC President Dana White and former UFC Lightweight and Welterweight Champion BJ “The Prodigy” Penn have struggled in getting along throughout their long relationship.
Penn entered into the UFC a world-renowned grappler at only 22 years of age. “The Prodigy” would burn through his competition, earning a title shot against the more experienced Jens Pulver in only three fights as a pro. He would lose to Pulver over five rounds and though he would go on to rack up impressive victories over some of the world’s best fighters and establish himself as one of the all-time best mixed martial artists in the world, Penn would always be accused of relying more on talent than hard work and for not achieving his full potential.
White has made comments on several occasions to that effect and drew a defensive reaction from Penn as a result. Penn used to take issue with the uneven paydays in the UFC. White and Penn apparently had a falling out when Penn left the UFC as welterweight champion to pursue larger paydays in K-1. All of that seemed to have been reconciled though, until Penn published an autobiography that snidely detailed his mistreatment at the hands of an unprofessional UFC promotional team. Penn’s writer, David Weintraub, was officially relieved of his duty as a freelance worker for the UFC at White’s command. Also as a result, White and Penn’s relationship has apparently remained strained.
Speaking to MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani prior to his UFC 118 rematch with Frankie Edgar, BJ Penn stated that he desired a better relationship with White and that he owes the outspoken UFC boss for all of his success.
“I wish it was better,” said Penn. “I love Dana White. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
White also spoke with Helwani, post-UFC 118, and responded to BJ’s comment, saying that any problems between he and the Hawaiian fighter rest on Penn’s shoulders.
“The problems with BJ and I, I didn’t create. So that’s up to BJ,” said White on a possible reconciliation with “The Prodigy.”
Asked to comment on the true source of their issues, White said, “I don’t want to drag it out in the public, it’s not important.”
Penn rests at a crossroads in his career, more as a result of his two losses to Edgar than to his relationship with White. “The Prodigy’s” future is unclear as of now, both in relation to when, where, if and against whom he makes his return and also how he moves forward in dealing with his boss and their issues.