Penn's sabbatical from fighting will ensure his return in 2012
B.J. Penn retired on Saturday night. Or maybe he didn’t.
Issuing a concrete declaration on your future is a tough thing to do, and it’s even more difficult when you do so after taking the kind of beating Penn received from Nick Diaz.
Penn is an emotional man. Always has been. He wears his heart on his sleeve, especially at the conclusion of fights that don’t really go his way. We saw evidence of this after he fought to a draw with Jon Fitch at UFC 127 earlier this year. Depressed and noncommittal about his future in the cage, Penn changed his mind just hours later after the adrenaline wore off and the emotions subsided.
Penn seemingly called it quits after losing to Diaz. His face a bloody wreck, Penn told Joe Rogan that it was “probably” the last time we’d see him in the cage and said that he didn’t want to go home to his children with a battered face. Not again, anyway. The bewildered audience didn’t quite know what to make of Penn’s proclamation. The truth is that Penn probably didn’t, either.
Retirement wasn’t something he’d been considering as he prepared to face Diaz – it was a spur of the moment statement from someone who had been bested by a better fighter. Where Mirko Cro Cop considered retirement a foregone conclusion going into his bout with Roy Nelson, Penn simply let his emotions get the better of him.
Two days later, Penn isn’t quite so resolute about spending the rest of his days on the stunning beaches of Hilo. In a statement posted to his official website on Monday afternoon, Penn said he’s going to take some time off before considering a permanent decision.
“I want to thank all the fans for their love and support,” Penn said. “I have decided to take some time off to enjoy life, train and teach. I will keep you guys posted with what’s next.”
Regardless of what he ultimately chooses to do, Penn is making a good decision in allowing himself time to fully consider the implications of retirement. Fighters shouldn’t call it quits after losing; there’s simply too much emotional baggage, too many clouds getting in the way of good decision-making. They spend months with a singular focus on defeating one person, and the emotional letdown when things don’t go their way is enormous. Losing sucks, and you’re allowed to be upset, but you surely can't be expected to make rational decisions.
The smart money is on Penn returning to the Octagon at some point in 2012. You don’t take fights from lightweight all the way to heavyweight without having a burning fire for competition. You can’t get that satisfaction from walking the streets of Hilo and educating a future crop of jiujitsu artists.
He’ll be back. We don’t know when, we don’t know where and we don’t know what weight class he’ll settle into. But we haven’t seen the last of B.J. Penn in the Octagon.
I’m sure of it, even if he isn’t.