Jay Dee “B.J.” Penn III, born December 13, 1978, is a renowned American former mixed martial artist and a 5th-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Notably, he was the first non-Brazilian to win the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship at black belt level. Throughout his MMA career, he made significant strides in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) across multiple weight classes, securing titles in both Lightweight and Welterweight divisions. This achievement made him the second fighter in UFC history to clinch titles in two weight categories.
Penn’s influence extended beyond the octagon; UFC President Dana White credited him with popularizing the lower weight divisions in the sport. Notably, Penn ventured into politics in 2021, announcing his candidacy for Hawaii’s gubernatorial election.
His career wasn’t without criticism; despite being heralded as one of UFC’s greatest, some believe he extended his career beyond its prime, marked by an eight-fight winless streak from 2011 to 2019.
B.J. Penn Summary Highlights
Early Achievements: First non-Brazilian to win the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship at the black belt level.
- Competed in various weight classes in the UFC and K-1.
- Secured both UFC Lightweight and Welterweight Championships.
- Became the second fighter in UFC history to win titles in multiple weight classes.
- Unofficially unified the UFC Lightweight Championship and broke the lightweight title defense record.
- Recognition: Inaugural inductee into the Modern-era wing of the UFC Hall of Fame in 2015.
Key Victories: Triumphed over formidable fighters like Matt Serra, Din Thomas, and Matt Hughes.
Return to UFC: After a stint with K-1, he returned to win and defend the UFC Lightweight Championship.
Political Ambition: Announced his candidacy for governor of Hawaii in 2022.
Criticism: Faced criticism for fighting beyond his prime, with an eight-fight winless streak from 2011 to 2019.
- Instrumental in popularizing UFC globally during the 2000s and 2010s.
Advocated for drug testing in MMA.
- Played a pivotal role in the resurgence of the UFC’s lightweight division.
Earned the nickname “The Prodigy” due to rapid achievements in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
- The ‘UFC Gym BJ Penn’ in Honolulu is named in his honor.
Ranking: Celebrated as one of the greatest lightweight and welterweight competitors in MMA history. Featured in the top five of FightersOnly! Magazine’s ‘100 Greatest Fighters in History’.
Hall of Fame: Inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2015.