5 Things You Should Know About the UFC’s B.J. Penn

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B.J. Penn managed to maintain a loyal following across the mixed martial arts universe, even as his once-prodigious skills began to fail him and provided further ammunition for his critics. The former two-division Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder will return to the Octagon at UFC 232, where he confronts “The Ultimate Fighter 22” winner Ryan Hall on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

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As Penn approaches his battle with Hall, here are five things you should know about him:

1. He lives up to his billing.

Nicknamed “The Prodigy,” Penn was awarded his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt after just three years of formal training and first surfaced as a name to watch in 2000, when he became the first non-Brazilian to win the Mundials at the black-belt level. He captured the MMA world’s imagination when he debuted on May 4, 2001, and started his career with three consecutive first-round finishes. Included among them was his 11-second dismantling of Caol Uno at UFC 34.

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2. He put himself on a short list.

Penn is one of only five men who have won UFC titles in multiple weight classes, along with Randy Couture, Conor McGregor, Georges St. Pierre and Daniel Cormier. He laid claim to the welterweight crown with a stunning upset of Matt Hughes at UFC 46 and later took lightweight gold with a gory submission victory over Joe Stevenson at UFC 80.

3. One-dimensional he is not.

Though Penn used his otherworldly grappling skills as an initial springboard to combat sports stardom, he also made his mark in the standup department. According to FightMetric, he ranks sixth on the UFC’s all-time list on total strikes landed with 1,808. Only St. Pierre (2,591), Frankie Edgar (2,099), Demetrious Johnson (1,956), Michael Bisping (1,935) and Nate Diaz (1,926) have connected for more.

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4. He established a reputation as MMA’s ultimate big-game hunter.

Penn has competed in five different weight classes as a professional mixed martial artist: featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, and open weight.

5. Age has taken an undeniable toll on him.

Father Time has not treated Penn favorably. He has gone 1-7-1 in nine appearances since he retained his lightweight championship against Diego Sanchez in December 2009 and has not posted a win in more than eight years. Penn turned 40 on Dec. 13.

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