In his heyday, BJ Penn was the second UFC fighter to win championships in multiple divisions.
Penn authored himself into the record books again Saturday in Brazil, but in a dubious way, becoming the first UFC fighter to suffer seven consecutive defeats.
He showed flashes of a vintage performance against Clay Guida. The 40-year-old Hilo native featured a fresher and more competitive striking game than in recent bouts, but he eventually wore down, losing a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27) in a preliminary lightweight bout at UFC 237.
“He’s been doing this almost 20 years, man,” Guida said in the postfight interview on ESPN. “It’s an honor to compete against someone like that.
“Without a doubt, that’s the fight I expected from BJ. I want to thank him for putting on a show like he has all these years.”
Penn, a UFC Hall of Famer, now has a losing record (12-13-2) in the mixed martial arts organization – he’s 16-14-2 overall – after falling to 1-9-1 since beating Matt Hughes in 2010.
Guida exhorted the crowd at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro to chant “BJ, BJ, BJ” after the fight, and he also showed Penn respect during the bout. Guida appeared content to jostle and lean on Penn against the cage and stay out of harm’s way in the third round even as his corner yelled at him to back up so he could resume throwing strikes to try and finish the fight.
“I didn’t think I was that close to finishing him, and my stubborn wrestling ego wants to get the takedown all the time,” said Guida, who was credited with one takedown.
Utilized an effective leg kick, he set a new personal-best for significant strikes landed with 80, a few of which rocked Penn in the second half of the fight. Penn was credited with 64 significant strikes.
Afterward, Guida credited Penn and his association with a former coach as one of the keys to his longevity in the sport.
The question is, will Guida now play a role in ending Penn’s MMA longevity?
Before the fight, he showed no hints of an impending retirement.