The final 2015 inductee for the reinvigorated UFC Hall of Fame will be legendary two-time, two-division UFC world champion BJ Penn. Known as “The Prodigy” throughout his amazing 13-year, 16-10-2 professional mixed martial arts career, Penn takes his place in the Modern Era category of the UFC Hall of Fame.
The Modern Era category recognizes great fighters who turned professional on or after November 17, 2000, when the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) were created and widely adopted. Penn turned professional on May 4, 2001, at UFC 31.
The announcement was made moments ago on the UFC 187 Prelims broadcast on FOX Sports 1. Penn’s formal induction will take place at a gala event on Saturday, July 11, at the UFC Fan Expo®, during the UFC’s annual International Fight Week™ in Las Vegas.
UFC President Dana White said: “It is our honor to induct BJ Penn into the UFC Hall of Fame. He was one of those stars who helped build the UFC. When we bought this company, we were told no-one cared about lightweights. BJ Penn not only made people care, he was one of the biggest draws in UFC history. And what he accomplished inside the Octagon speaks for itself – he is one of only two people to win two UFC titles in two different divisions and he beat a who’s who of his era. He is a legend and a no-brainer for the UFC Hall of Fame.”
Born Jay Dee Penn on December 13, 1978, “Baby Jay” is believed to have earned a legitimate Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt faster than any practitioner of the martial art. He was awarded the honor by André Pederneiras in 2000, aged 20, less than three years after taking his first lesson. Penn validated his black belt status just weeks later, when he became the first American to ever win the black belt division of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships.
Because of the speed of Penn’s achievements in BJJ, he was dubbed “The Prodigy” – a moniker which he carried into his MMA – and UFC – debut vs Joey Gilbert at UFC 31 on May 4, 2001.
“Nothing personal, I just want the belt,” Penn said after scoring a first round knockout.
The first UFC championship came at welterweight, when he choked out the previously unstoppable Matt Hughes in the opening round of their UFC 46, January 2004, clash. However, Penn never defended the title, spending the next two years competing outside of the UFC organization.
A truly fearless competitor who’s self-belief knew few boarders, Penn defeated both Renzo Gracie and Rodrigo Gracie in middleweight bouts outside of the UFC; he even took a 225lbs Lyoto Machida the distance in a heavyweight fight.
Whether inside or outside the Octagon®, Penn fought the best of the best and his scalp list includes luminaries like Caol Uno, Matt Serra and Takanori Gomi.
But it was his achievements in the UFC lightweight classes that Penn cemented his legacy as one of the very best of all time.
Upon returning to the division in 2007, Penn embarked on a three year reign of terror. He swiftly avenged his first career loss to Jens Pulver before winning the vacant 155lbs title with a one-sided beatdown of Joe Stevenson at UFC 80. In winning the title, Penn became only the second man to hold two UFC titles in two weight divisions. He then defended the belt against former champion Sean Sherk, and surging contenders Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez in impressive fashion before finally losing the title to Frankie Edgar in 2010.
Along the way Penn also attempted to win back the UFC welterweight title, in a rematch of a very close and controversial fight vs Georges St-Pierre. The UFC 94, January 2009, main event was a rare UFC champion vs UFC champion superfight and one of the biggest fights of the decade.
Penn’s final win came in November 2010, at UFC 123, when he knocked out his great rival turned friend Matt Hughes in 21-seconds, winning their trilogy 2-1. Penn last competed one year ago, losing a somber fight against nemesis Frankie Edgar at International Fight Week 2014.
Now, 12 months later, Penn will be given the send-off his legendary career deserves.
What made Penn a perpetual pound-for-pounder was his unique combination of high-level BJJ, takedown defense, remarkable balance plus his supreme boxing skills. Even the most experience fight commentators marveled at the Hawaiian’s skill set; UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan once opinioned that Penn had more flexibility and dexterity in his legs than most good fighters had in their arms and, in 2008, famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach said Penn was the best boxer in MMA “by far.”
According to FightMetric, the official statistics provider to the UFC, Penn spent a total of 5-hours, 18-minues and 7-seconds in the UFC Octagon, the second most of any UFC fighter. He landed 1,736 strikes in the UFC, the fourth most in organization history, with 1215 of them setting a lightweight division record. He landed with over half of his power shots and his takedown completion rate of 66.7% remains the most accurate in the UFC lightweight division.
Penn joins Pioneer Era inductee Bas Rutten, Fight inductee Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg II and Contributor Jeff Blatnick to complete to 2015 UFC Hall of Fame class.
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