Nickname The Prodigy
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight 155 lb (70 kg; 11.1 st)
Reach 70 in (180 cm)
Born December 13, 1978 (1978-12-13) (age 30)
Fighting out of: Hilo, Hawaii
Team/Association BJ Penn's MMA
Primary fighting style: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing
By knockout 5
By submission 5
Martial arts background
At the age of seventeen, Penn began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after being introduced to it by his neighbor, Tom Callos. Callos had put up fliers in local gyms looking for people to train with, and BJ's father Jay Dee Penn had rung Callos and said his boys were interested. Callos then taught BJ and his brother what he knew.
In 1997 Penn began training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Ralph Gracie, eventually earning his purple belt from Gracie. At that point he moved to Nova Uniao where he was eventually awarded his black belt in 2000 by Andre Pederneiras. A few weeks later he became the first non-Brazilian to win the black-belt division of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While most people need a decade or more to become a black belt, Penn had, with only three years of training, not only received a black belt but defeated people who had been training their entire lives on his way to winning the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
First UFC career
His accomplishments in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship caught the attention of Dana White and the Ultimate Fighting Championship who convinced him to switch to MMA. Penn made his mixed martial arts debut with the company on May 24, 2001 with a win over Joey Gilbert at UFC 31. He then demonstrated strong striking skills, knocking out lightweights Din Thomas and Caol Uno before suffering a decision loss in a championship fight against UFC Lightweight Champion, Jens Pulver. In 2003, after Pulver left the UFC and relinquished his title, a tournament to crown a new champion flopped when Penn fought Uno to a draw in the finals at UFC 41, a failure which caused the UFC to later suspend its lightweight division. Penn bounced back later in the year with a victory over Takanori Gomi, future Pride Fighting Championship Lightweight Champion, in Rumble on the Rock, an MMA organization promoted by Penn's brother.
Penn received his first MMA championship in 2004 at UFC 46. Penn jumped up in weight classes to challenge the five-time defending UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes to fill a title contention slot in a division where Hughes had already defeated all the available opposition. Heavily favored to win, Hughes lost the fight four minutes into the first round by rear naked choke after giving up his back with only 23 seconds left in the round.
Fighting for FEG
Shortly after defeating Hughes, Penn signed to fight for the Japanese Fighting and Entertainment Group's (FEG) K-1 promotion citing a lack of challenging fights left for him in the UFC. The UFC promptly stripped him of the welterweight title, claiming Penn breached his contract and that the signing constituted him refusing to defend his title. Penn filed a suit against the UFC and publicized his side of the conflict, claiming his UFC contract had already expired. Penn filed a motion to stop the UFC from awarding a new welterweight title, but that motion was denied.
In his first fight for FEG, Penn fought again at welterweight and defeated Duane Ludwig at the 2004 K-1 MMA Romanex show in under five minutes by arm triangle choke. Following the Ludwig fight, Penn moved up in weight class to face the undefeated Rodrigo Gracie at middleweight. Penn won by decision, extending his winning streak to four fights.
On March 26, 2005, at the inaugural event of FEG's new MMA promotion Hero's, Penn faced light heavyweight Lyoto Machida, losing by unanimous decision at K-1 Hero's 1. The fight happened at an open weight class. Later that year at K-1 World Grand Prix Hawaii, Penn returned to middleweight to face Renzo Gracie and won by unanimous decision.
Return to the UFC
In early 2006 at UFC 56, UFC president Dana White announced that Penn and the UFC had agreed to a settlement and Penn was to return as a top welterweight contender. Penn re-debuted on March 4 at UFC 58, losing to Georges St. Pierre by split decision in a fight that determined the number one welterweight contender.
Hughes and Penn before their rematch at UFC 63: Hughes vs. Penn
After new top contender St. Pierre injured himself during training, the UFC announced that Penn would replace St. Pierre in an upcoming title fight, setting up a highly anticipated rematch with Hughes for UFC 63 on September 23, 2006. In the bout Penn controlled the first two rounds, but sustained a rib injury during the scramble to take Hughes' back in round two. He was visibly different in the third round, appearing exhausted and missing punches he was landing earlier. Hughes was able to take Penn to the mat, and in side control crucifix position rained punches on Penn's head until referee "Big" John McCarthy stopped the fight at 3:53 of the third round, making this the first time that Penn had been stopped in a fight. In an interview found on Penn's personal website, Penn stated that by round three he could hardly breathe and had no "mobility in his core." Despite the injury, Penn congratulated Hughes, calling him a great fighter and saying he deserved the victory.
Penn was a coach for The Ultimate Fighter 5, which aired on April 5, 2007. Penn lead a team of eight lightweight fighters, and fought a rematch against Jens Pulver at the conclusion of the series on June 23, 2007. He won with a rear naked choke in the second round after controlling Pulver from the mount and then taking Pulver's back. Although he held the choke for a moment after Pulver tapped out, the two then embraced, with both later saying they no longer held any ill will against each other.
On July 7, 2007, during the post-fight press conference of UFC 73, UFC president Dana White announced that Penn would stay at lightweight to fight current UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk. However, Sean Sherk subsequently was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission, and the status of the possible title fight was left in limbo as he pursued his appeals. With Sherk's title status still in limbo after months of hearings, the UFC scheduled Penn to fight Joe Stevenson at UFC 80 on January 19, 2008 for an interim lightweight title. The subsequent final decision by the California State Athletic Commission, which did not overturn Sherk's suspension, led to the title being stripped from Sherk and the Penn-Stevenson fight being upgraded to a full title bout, with the winner facing Sherk in their first defense.
Reign as Lightweight Champion
Penn knocked Stevenson down seconds into the first round with a right uppercut, then took Stevenson down, eventually inflicting a serious cut near Stevenson's hairline. In the second round, Stevenson fought more aggressively but was still unable to threaten Penn. Penn worked to back mount and defeated him by rear naked choke at 4:02 of the second round to win the UFC lightweight championship. He celebrated the win by licking Joe Stevenson's blood off of his gloves. With this win, Penn became the second man (after Randy Couture) to win UFC titles in two different weight classes.
On May 24, 2008 at UFC 84 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, Penn fought former champion Sean Sherk in his first title defense bout. Sherk attempted to take Penn down only once (in the first round), instead the fighters traded punches and leg kicks for the remainder of the fight. Penn landed jabs several times, utilizing his reach advantage over Sherk. In the closing seconds of the third round, Penn threw a punch and a hook that backed Sherk into the cage. Sherk then ducked under another punch, when he was hit in the head by a left knee from Penn. Sherk went down and Penn continued with strikes, but the round ended before the referee stopped the fight. However, Sherk was unable to continue and Penn was declared the victor by TKO. After the fight, in response a question by Joe Rogan about his future, Penn asked the crowd if they wanted to see him fight Georges St. Pierre and was answered with a loud ovation. Later, Penn told Fighters Club TV that he would face the winner of UFC 87 Welterweight title fight between Georges St-Pierre and Jon Fitch, which St-Pierre ended up winning by unanimous decision. St-Pierre's victory led to the scheduling of BJ's next fight as a Welterweight Championship fight.
Challenge for the welterweight title
Penn challenged Georges St-Pierre for St-Pierre's welterweight title on January 31, 2009, the night before the Super Bowl. The date led UFC 94 to be billed as the "UFC Super Bowl Weekend," and it was anticipated to be the biggest UFC pay-per-view event ever. Before the fight with St-Pierre, Penn made a controversial comment that he was going to try and kill St-Pierre in the ring, but he later explained that he was speaking figuratively.
The first round of the fight was somewhat even, with Penn exercising elusive head movement, fast hands, and good take-down defense, thwarting all of St-Pierre's take-down attempts while both exchanged punches. In the ensuing three rounds, however, Penn turned out a lackluster performance. St-Pierre scored his first take-down of the night midway through the second round, and by the end of the round Penn was visibly tired. At the start of round three, St-Pierre landed a "superman punch" that bloodied Penn's nose and shortly took Penn down again. From that point on, St-Pierre took Penn down almost at will, repeatedly passed Penn's renowned guard, and persistently punished the Hawaiian with a ground-and-pound attack. At the end of the fourth round, after more of St-Pierre's ground-and-pound onslaught, Penn's brother requested that the referee stop the fight. Subsequently in an interview he revealed that had he won, he would have retired "on top", while holding the lightweight and the welterweight belts.
A controversy arose during the fight as St-Pierre's corner-men were spotted rubbing St-Pierre's back immediately after applying Vaseline to his face. Members of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) came into the octagon and wiped St-Pierre's torso down, though no significant amounts of Vaseline were discovered. After the fight, on ESPN's MMA show, St-Pierre claimed that the rubbing was part of a routine to line up his energy for improved breathing, and he apologized for any Vaseline that may have been transferred to his body. Penn, however, sent a formal request to the NSAC, asking them to investigate.