BJ Penn –The Legendary UFC Lightweight Champion

BJ Penn –The Legendary UFC Lightweight Champion

1. BJ Penn’s Details

BJ Penn’s Details
Name Jay Dee Penn
Pro MMA Record 16-14-2 (Win-Loss-Draw)
Nickname The Prodigy
Date of Birth 13-12-1978
Age 43
Height 5’9”
Weight 66 kg (145 lbs)
Born  Kailua, Hawaii, USA
Nationality American
Last Fight May 11, 2019, at UFC
Weight Division Lightweight, Welterweight and Middleweight (MMA), Featherweight (BJJ)
Career Disclosed Earning $22 Million
Fought out of Hilo, Hawaii
College/University NA
Foundation Style Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Rank 5th Degree Black Belt in BJJ
Lineage Mitsuyo Maeda –> Carlos Gracie –> Carlson Gracie –> Andre Pederneiras –> BJ Penn
Team Association BJ Penn’s MMA / Nova Uniao (formerly), American Kickboxing Academy, Jackson Wink MMA Academy, RVCA Training Centre
Favorite Position/Technique Guard Passing
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2. BJ Penn’s Biography

BJ Penn is an American professional mixed martial artist and one of the best fighters in the history of UFC. He is also a black belt in BJJ and one of the fastest men ever to achieve the black belt rank (three years and four months only).

BJ Penn received worldwide recognition by being the first American ever to win gold in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Penn also competed in multiple weight divisions in UFC and K-1 during his martial arts career. Through his tenure as a champion, Penn unofficially unified the UFC Lightweight Championship by breaking the all-time lightweight title defense record.

BJ Penn also became the second person ever to win UFC in two different weight divisions (welterweight and lightweight).

In 2015, due to his remarkable achievements, BJ Penn was added to the Modern era wing of the UFC Hall of Fame.

2.1. BJ Penn’s Early Life

On December 12, 1978, BJ Penn was born in Kailua, Hawaii, to a wealthy Hawaiian family.

BJ Penn started his jiu-jitsu training during his early teens after being introduced to the sport by his neighbour Tom Callos (a student of Cesar and Ralph Gracie). He began taking grappling lessons from Tom Callos and fell in love with the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Shortly thereafter, BJ moved to California to train at the Ralph Gracie Academy with the support of his father.

2.2. BJ Penn’s Pro BJJ Career

Training at Ralph Gracie’s Academy

In 1997, BJ Penn started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Ralph Gracie. BJ stayed with Ralph Gracie until he received his purple belt from him. After realizing his potential in BJJ, Penn decided to go to Brazil to train among world-class competitors.

Training at Nova Uniao Headquarters

Though Ralph Gracie opposed the idea, BJ went to Brazil anyway and joined the Nova Uniao headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.

At Nova, BJ had a chance to train with the best BJJ lightweight athletes in the world. Penn eventually received his black belt from Andre in 2000.

Winning World BJJ Championship

BJ’s jiu-jitsu game escalated as he became the first American ever to win the gold medal in the black belt division at the World BJJ Championships (2000) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Previously he had won bronze and silver medals in the brown and blue belt divisions respectively.

Fastest Black Belt Promotion

BJ’s promotion to the black belt was one of the fastest ever recorded. He received his black belt in only three years and four months from Andre Pederneiras.

  • Six months to blue belt (Ralph Gracie)
  • One year and six months to purple belt (Ralph Gracie)
  • Eight months to brown belt (Andre Pederneiras)
  • Eight more months to black belt. (Andre Pederneiras)

2.3. BJ Penn’s Pro MMA Career

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

After winning the BJJ World Title, BJ Penn switched his focus to MMA fighting.

On May 24, 2001, BJ made his MMA debut at UFC 31 with a win over Joey Gilbert. He then demonstrated his exceptional fighting skills by knocking out Din Thomas and Caol Uno in the lightweight division before losing to the UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver in a championship fight.

In 2003, when Pulver left UFC and gave away his title, UFC 41 was held to crown a new lightweight champion. Penn competed against Uno at UFC 41 to win the crown, but the competition flopped as the match ended in a draw, leaving UFC without its lightweight champion. This failure caused UFC to later suspend its lightweight division.

Winning First MMA Championship

BJ Penn won his first MMA Championship later that year when he defeated the PRIDE Lightweight Champion, Takanori Gomi, at the “Rumble on the Rock Lightweight Championship” in K-1 Fighting Network’s Rumble on the Rock.

Winning First UFC Championship (Welterweight)

In 2004, BJ won his first UFC Championship in the welterweight division at UFC 46: Supernatural by defeating the five-time UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes via RNC in one of the greatest submission wins in the history of MMA.

K-1 Promotion

Due to the lack of challenging fights in UFC after his wins, BJ Penn signed a contract to fight for the K-1 promotion of the Japanese Fighting and Entertainment Group (FEG).

As a result, the UFC quickly took away BJ’s welterweight title, claiming that BJ has breached his contract by signing with K-1 and he cannot defend his title anymore. BJ then filed a case against UFC and claimed that his contract had already expired. BJ also filed a motion to prevent UFC from awarding a new welterweight champion, but the motion was denied.

In 2004, BJ again competed in the welterweight division at the K-1 MMA Romanex Show where he defeated Duane Ludwig by arm-triangle choke in under five minutes. He then won against the undefeated Rodrigo Gracie in the middleweight division.

In 2005, BJ faced Lyoto Machida at the inaugural events of FEG’S new MMA promotion “K-1 Hero’s 1” and lost by unanimous decision.

The UFC Returns

BJ Penn made his return to the UFC in early 2006.

On March 4, 2006, BJ faced George St-Pierre at UFC 58 and lost the match via split decision.

When the new champion St-Pierre injured himself during training, UFC announced that BJ will replace St-Pierre in the next fight. On 23 September 2006, BJ faced Matt Hughes for the second time at the UFC 63 Welterweight Championship and lost the match due to a rib injury in the second round.

In 2007, BJ served as the coach for The Ultimate Fighter 5 and led a team of eight lightweight fighters. BJ competed against Jens Pulver once again at the conclusion of the series on June 23, 2007, and won via RNC in the second round.

Winning the Lightweight Championship

In January 2008, BJ fought against Joe Stevenson at UFC 80 and won the interim lightweight title by defeating Joe via submission. This win awarded him the title of “Beatdown of the Year” by Sherdog for 2008. 

With this remarkable victory, BJ Penn became the second man after Randy to win UFC titles in two different weight divisions (Welterweight: 2004, Lightweight 2008).

In May 2009, BJ defended his lightweight title against Sean Sherk at UFC 84 and won the match by TKO. This is considered the greatest fight in the history of the UFC lightweight division.

Later that year, Penn competed against George St-Pierre at UFC 87 and lost the fight via unanimous decision. George’s victory led to the scheduling of BJ Penn’s next fight as a Welterweight Championship match .

A Shot at Welterweight

On January 31, 2009, the night before the Super Bowl, BJ challenged ST-Pierre for his welterweight title at UFC 94. Consequently, UFC 94 was billed as the UFC Super Bowl Weekend.

Unfortunately, BJ Penn got severely injured during the fight and lost to St-Pierre in the fourth round after the referee stopped the fight. The injury was so serious that Penn was sent to the hospital after the match.

However, this fight created a huge controversy which is called “Greasegate” by BJ’s fans. It was observed that St-Pierre's back was rubbed immediately after applying the petroleum jelly to his face. BJ requested Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) to investigate the matter but the request was ruled out.

Returning as Lightweight Champion

On December 12, 2009, BJ Penn returned to the lightweight division at UFC 107 and won the Lightweight Championship again by defeating Diego Sanchez via TKO in the fifth round.

With this victory, BJ Penn earned the distinction of being the only man ever to have stopped Sanchez and this match became only second fight in the history of UFC to end in the fifth round.

This remarkable performance set a new record for lightweight title defenses as Penn completed his three successful defenses in UFC Lightweight Championship, breaking the previous two defense records by Jens Pulver.

Losing the Lightweight Title

In April 2010, BJ Penn lost his Lightweight Championship Title to Frankie Edgar at UFC 112, ending his eight-year undefeated streak in the lightweight division.

Returning to the Welterweight

In November 2010, BJ Penn returned to the welterweight division and competed against Matt Hughes at UFC 123. Penn successfully defeated Hughes within 21 seconds in the first round via a knockout and earned the honour of “Knockout of the Night” for his performance.

After UFC 123, Dana White (the President of UFC) announced that Penn will face Jon Fitch at UFC 127 in Australia.

The match took place on February 27, 2011, when BJ stunned Fitch by taking him to the ground instead of utilizing his stand-up skills. The fight finally ended in a draw, robbing Fitch of his five-win streak at UFC.

BJ’s next fight was against Nick Diaz at UFC 137. After winning the first round with crisp boxing, BJ lost the match by unanimous decision in the end.


After his loss to Nick Diaz at UFC 137, BJ Penn announced his retirement on the microphone in November 2011.

“Joe, this was probably the last time you will see me here. I can’t keep performing at the top level. That’s it, Joe”. (BJ Penn)

However, a few months later, Jon Fitch and Nick Diaz created a buzz that BJ will be returning to fighting scenes in the near future, to which BJ Penn reacted angrily.

In April 2012, Dana White stated that BJ Penn wants to continue at 170 pounds whenever he is ready.

Dana White also said that BJ Penn deserves to be in the UFC Hall of Fame since he was a pioneer in the welterweight division at a time when many believed that there could not be any champions at 155 pounds.

Several months after his retirement, BJ Penn accepted the repeated challenge made by Rory MacDonald. The fight took place on December 8, 2012, at UFC and BJ Penn lost the fight by unanimous decision.

Comeback to Featherweight

In September 2013, BJ Penn announced to make a comeback in the featherweight division against Frankie Edgar for season 19 of The Ultimate Fighter.

BJ Penn approached his coach Andre Pederneiras for training to compete against Edgar. Despite all the preparation, BJ lost the fight in the third round by TKO. Following this event, BJ announced his intentions to retire again from MMA.

BJ took a rest from the action for about 18 months. Then in January 2016, he announced his intentions to compete in the UFC’s featherweight division. However, BJ’s return was delayed after an investigation of criminal allegations was launched against him.

BJ Penn was scheduled to fight against Cole Miller at UFC 199 in June 2016, but it was cancelled after he was flagged for using a medically administered IV drug during the non-fight period.

Losing Streak

BJ Penn returned to UFC in January 2017 at UFC Fight Night 103 where he faced Yair Rodriguez and lost the match by TKO in the second round.

Another match against Dennis Siver took place in June 2017 at UFC Night 112 and BJ lost again by majority decision.

BJ returned to lightweight for the next fight and faced Ryan Hall at UFC 232 on December 29, 2018. He lost the fight again by heel hook submission in the first round.

Penn also lost his next fight against Clay Guida at UFC 237.

2.4. BJ Penn’s Legacy

BJ Penn is considered one of the most outspoken and controversial players in MMA history. He played an instrumental role in popularizing the UFC all around the globe in the 2000s and 2010s.

BJ is recognized for his role in the re-emergence of the lightweight division in UFC and is regarded as the most influential figure for making lightweight UFC’s most popular weight class when it was on the verge of being extinct.

BJ emerged as the biggest star of MMA and headlined 11 total main events for UFC. His impact on the sport went beyond his dominant performances and UFC titles. BJ was the first person to introduce an independent foundation in MMA in order to promote, monitor, and coordinate the fight against performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

In BJ’s honour , The Ultimate Fighting Championship named their inaugural gym in Honolulu, Hawaii “UFC Gym BJ Penn”. BJ Penn is also featured in the UFC Evolution pay-per-view introduction.

UFC Hall of Fame

In May 2015, it was revealed on Fox Sports during the television broadcast of UFC 187 that BJ Penn will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame under the Modern category during the international Fight week celebrations before UFC 189. 

2.5. BJ Penn’s Personal Life

BJ lives in Hilo, Hawaii, and has two daughters from his girlfriend Shealen Uaiwa.

He is the co-author of an instructional book on MMA fighting, “Mixed Martial Arts: The Book of Knowledge”.

In 2009, BJ Penn also appeared in the film, “Never Surrender”.

In 2010, BJ Penn authored an autobiography along with Dave called “Why I Fight: The Belt is Just an Accessory”. This book debuted as the 22nd ranked on the list of New York Times bestsellers.

In October 2021, BJ Penn also announced his plan to run for governor of Hawaii in the 2020 elections.

2.6. BJ Penn’s Historic Fights

BJ Pen Vs Matt Hughes

BJ Penn fought against the five-time UFC Welterweight Champion “Matt Hughes” three times in his MMA career.

Their first encounter at UFC 46 in January 2004, marked history as BJ Penn won his first UFC Championship in the welterweight division by defeating Matt via RNC despite Hughes’ weight advantage.

In September 2006, BJ faced Matt Hughes for the second time at UFC 63, but this time BJ lost to Hughes via TKO punches. It was the first time when Penn had been stopped in the middle of a fight.

Their third encounter occurred at UFC 123 in November 2010, when they both were tied at 1-1. BJ needed to prove he was better than his opponent as he had already lost a few matches back-to-back.

Although it was a tough competition, BJ Penn defeated the welterweight champion within 21 seconds of the first round and earned the honour of the “Knockout of the Night” due to his spectacular performance.

Year Event Opponent W/L/D Method Stage
2010 UFC 123 Matt Hughes W KO (punches) R1
2006 UFC 63 Matt Hughes L TKO (punches) R3
2004 UFC 46 Matt Hughes W Submission (rear-naked choke) R1

BJ Penn Vs Joe Stevenson

BJ Penn gave the best performance of his career at UFC 80 when he faced the former UFC Lightweight Champion Joe Stevenson on January 19, 2018.

Throughout the match, BJ Penn dominated all areas of the fight, shutting down Joe’s attempts at offense. In the first round, BJ left a big cut on Joe’s forehead and the match was almost over as blood was getting into Joe’s eyes.

However, Joe bravely fought and entered the second but to his bad luck, Penn caught him in a rear-naked choke and won the fight at the end of round two.

It was a historic victory that earned BJ his first UFC lightweight belt and he became the second person in UFC history to win UFC titles in two different weight classes.

Year Event Opponent W/L/D Method Stage
2008 UFC 80 Joe Stevenson W Submission (rear-naked choke) R2

BJ Penn vs Sean Sherk

On May 21, 2008, BJ Penn fought his first lightweight title defense bout against the former UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk at UFC 84. This historic match was declared one of the greatest fights in the UFC lightweight division.

Sean tried to take BJ down to the mat only in the first round, after which both fighters kept on trading leg kicks and punches until the end.

BJ used his reach advantage over Sean and landed jabs several times during the fight. Then in the closing seconds of the third round, Penn hit Sherk with a hook. Sherk ducked under to shoot for a takedown, but he was hit in the head by a flying left knee from BJ.

Sean went down while BJ continued the strikes and the round ended before the referee stopped the fight. At last, BJ Penn won by TKO as Sherk was unable to continue the match.

Year Event Opponent W/L/D Method Stage
2008 UFC 84 Sean Sherk W TKO (flying knee and punches) R3

2.7. BJ Penn’s Championships and Accomplishments

  • IBJJF World Championship
  • World Jiu Jitsu Championship
  • CBJJ Brazilian Team Championships
  • First American to win the gold medal in Jiu-Jitsu World Championship
  • UFC Welterweight Championship
  • UFC Lightweight Championship
  • Inaugural Inductee to UFC Hall of Fame
  • Second fighter to win multiple weight classes in UFC history

3. BJ Penn’s Main Achievements

3.1. Mixed Martial Arts

Ultimate Fighting Championship

  • One time UFC Lightweight Champion
  • One time UFC Welterweight Champion
  • One time knockout of the night award
  • One time tap out of the night award
  • Two times fight of the night award
  • Two times submission of the night award
  • Only fighter to win both UFC Welterweight and Lightweight Championships
  • Only fighter to record stoppage victories in each of the five available rounds

K-1 Fighting

  • One time Rumble on the Rock Lightweight Championship
  • Winner of K-1 World Grand Prix Hawaii Superfight

MMA Fighting Awards
Lightweight Fighter of the Year 2003
Welterweight Fighter of the Year 2004
Welterweight Fighter of the Year ( Runner-Up) 2006
Fighter of the Year 2006

Sports Illustrated Awards
Fighter of the Decade (Top ten) 2000s
UFC’s Greatest Fight (1st Place) 2006
UFC’s Greatest Fight (8th  Place) 2006

Fight Matrix Awards
Rookie of the Year 2001
Fighter of the Year 2004
2x Most Noteworthy Match of the Year 2002, 2009

Fight Magazine Awards
Fighter of the Decade (Top 5) 2000s
MMA Lifetime Achievement Award NA
Submission of the Year 2009

Black Belt Magazine Awards
Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame NA
NHB Fighter of the Year 2008

Sherdog Awards
Fighter of the Year – Honourable Mention 2004
Beatdown of the Year 2008
MMA Hall of Fame NA

3.2. Submission Grappling

Four Times IBJJF World Champion
1st Place 2000
1st Place
(Marrom Preta Leve: Nova Uniao)
2nd Place 1999
3rd Place 1998

3.3 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Three Times World Jiu-Jitsu Champion
Gold Medalist 2000
Bronze Medalist 1999
Silver Medalist 1998

Copa Pacific Tournament
Gold Medalist 1999

4. BJ Penn’s Main Achievements (Belts)

4.1. Black Belt

Position Event Belt Year
1st Place IBJJF World Championship Black 2000
1st Place World Jiu Jitsu Championship Black 2000

4.2 Coloured Belts

Position Event Belt Year
2nd Place IBJJF World Championship Brown 1999
3rd Place World Jiu Jitsu Championship Brown 1999
2nd Place World Jiu Jitsu Championship Blue 1998
3rd Place IBJJF World Championship Blue 1998
1st Place Joe Moreira Tournament Blue 1997

5. BJ Penn’s Professional Record Breakdown

Professional Record Breakdown
32 Matches 16 Wins 14 Losses
By Submission 6 1
By Knockout 7 4
By Decision 3 9
Draws 2

5.1. Submission Methods W/L

Methods 6 Wins 1 Loss
Heel Hook 0 1
RNC 5 0
Arm Triangle 1 0

6. BJ Penn’s Fight History

Year Event Opponent W/L/D Method Stage
2019 UFC 237 Clay Guida L Decision (unanimous) R3
2018 UFC 232 Ryan Hall L Submission (heel hook) R1
2017 UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs. Lee Dennis Siver L Decision (majority) R3
2017 UFC Fight Night: Rodríguez vs. Penn Yair Rodríguez L TKO (front kick and punches) R2
2014 The Ultimate Fighter: Team Edgar vs. Team Penn Finale Frankie Edgar L TKO (punches) R3
2012 UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Diaz Rory MacDonald L Decision (unanimous) R3
2011 UFC 137 Nick Diaz L Decision (unanimous) R3
2011 UFC 127 Jon Fitch D Draw (majority) R3
2010 UFC 123 Matt Hughes W KO (punches) R1
2010 UFC 118 Frankie Edgar L Decision (unanimous) R5
2010 UFC 112 Frankie Edgar L Decision (unanimous) R5
2009 UFC 107 Diego Sanchez W TKO (doctor stoppage) R5
2009 UFC 101 Kenny Florian W Submission (rear-naked choke) R4
2009 UFC 94 Georges St-Pierre L TKO (corner stoppage) R4
2008 UFC 84 Sean Sherk W TKO (flying knee and punches) R3
2008 UFC 80 Joe Stevenson W Submission (rear-naked choke) R2
2007 The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale Jens Pulver W Submission (rear-naked choke) R2
2006 UFC 63 Matt Hughes L TKO (punches) R3
2006 UFC 58 Georges St-Pierre L Decision (split) R3
2005 K-1: World Grand Prix Hawaii Renzo Gracie W Decision (unanimous) R3
2005 K-1: Hero's 1 Lyoto Machida L Decision (unanimous) R3
2004 K-1 Rumble on the Rock 6 Rodrigo Gracie W Decision (unanimous) R3
2004 K-1 MMA: Romanex Duane Ludwig W Submission (arm-triangle choke) R1
2004 UFC 46 Matt Hughes W Submission (rear-naked choke) R1
2003 K-1 Rumble on the Rock 4 Takanori Gomi W Submission (rear-naked choke) R3
2003 UFC 41 Caol Uno D Draw (split) R5
2002 UFC 39 Matt Serra W Decision (unanimous) R3
2002 UFC 37 Paul Creighton W TKO (punches) R2
2002 UFC 35 Jens Pulver L Decision (majority) R5
2001 UFC 34 Caol Uno W KO (punches) R1
2001 UFC 32 Din Thomas W KO (knee and punches) R1
2001 UFC 31 Joey Gilbert W TKO (punches) R1

7. BJ Pen’s Controversies

BJ Penn has a broad history of alcohol-induced violence. Penn was arrested in January 2015 in Kihei, Hawaii after being charged with assault following a fight outside a bar.

In October 2019, BJ’s girlfriend, Shealen Uaiwa, filed a restraining order against him from their children, accusing him of years of sexual and physical abuse.

In August 2019, Penn was found to be involved in a bar brawl on Big Island, Hawaii. Consequently, he was released from UFC in September 2019 after this incident.

On February 7, 2020, BJ was involved in a car accident in his hometown Hilo due to speeding. BJ lost control of his truck and his vehicle flipped in front of a shopping mall. BJ was quickly transported to a nearby hospital. The Hilo Police Department investigated BJ for DUI (Driving under the Influence), but no charges were filed.

In December 2020, the mother of BJ’s recent child filed a paternity lawsuit against him.

On January 23, 2021, BJ was charged with DUI and was arrested in Honoka’a Hawaii. He was later released from the jail a few hours after his arrest with a pending investigation. A bystander provided video footage showing a drunk, handcuffed BJ Penn, yelling at the police and the man recording while being assisted into the police vehicle.

8. BJ Penn’s Top Fight Links

B.J.Penn vs. Lyoto Machida

Nick Diaz vs BJ Penn

BJ Penn vs George St Pierre

Ryan Hall vs BJ Penn

Photo credit: @bcbssports , @mmafighting

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