BJ Penn proved his doubters wrong this past Saturday night in Auburn Hills, Michigan, by returning to form and scoring a devastating knockout over former rival Matt Hughes in just 21 seconds. Penn looked re-invigorated heading into the cage, however noted after the fight that he sees his career winding down.
“I’m 31 right now,” said Penn at the evening’s post-fight press conference. “I want to fight a lot more until I’m 35 and then maybe call it quits.”.
“The Prodigy” came out of his corner with the urgency of someone who just remembered they left on the iron. He immediately set out to establish his jab and score on the feet, at one point catching a kick delivered by Hughes and countering with a punch. At the 0:21 mark, he unleashed a straight right hand that dropped Hughes to the canvas. The Hilo, Hawaii native then followed up with some ground and pound for good measure, and referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in to halt the action; leaving Hughes to ask his corner, “What happened?”
With the loss, Hughes’ future in the sport is in question. UFC President Dana White feels that it could have been the other way around if Hughes left the fight with his hand raised.
“I honestly think if BJ didn’t win that fight, he would’ve retired,” White said. “I think so. What do you do? You’re BJ Penn, you just lost three in a row, two at 155, one at 170. I think he probably would’ve retired. I mean, I can’t speak for BJ. Well, apparently now he says I can, but I don’t know what he would’ve done. I think he probably would’ve retired. And it’s the right thing to do. I hate to see these guys with legacies and guys that have been great to just keep hanging on too long.”
With the win, Penn improves his record to 16-7-1 and he was also awarded the “Knockout of the Night” bonus to top off the victory. He will once again be fighting at welterweight for his next fight, this time facing Jon Fitch at UFC 127 this February.
“I think he looks good at 170 and always has,” said White. “When he walked in that octagon, he had that crazy, talking-to-himself, swearing-to-himself hyped-up energy. He looked like he was ready to go, like the old BJ. He didn’t look that way at 155.”
Meanwhile, Penn still isn’t sure which division is ideal for him.
“Welterweights are a little slower and stronger,” he noted. “The lightweights aren’t as strong and a little faster. So they both bring different challenges to the table. I dont know how I fit in with different ones. I feel I can do fine with both.”
BJ Penn will face Jon Fitch at UFC 127 on Sunday, February 27, 2011 from the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.
Thanks to Mark Wayne for contributing to this article.