At the UFC 232 post-fight press conference, White spoke glowingly of Penn, a former lightweight and welterweight champion who was an integral part of the promotion’s rise in the 2000s. However, Saturday’s bout against Ryan Hall at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., only further confirmed that the 40-year-old’s best days are long behind him.
Hall needed just 61 seconds to trap Penn in a heel hook and force the UFC Hall of Famer to submit for the first time in his career, which dates back to 2001. It was the sixth straight loss for Penn, who has won just once in his past 10 contests.
White said he had not had the chance to speak to Penn after his fight, but felt confident that Penn should no longer be competing.
“B.J.’s a legend in this sport,” White said. “He went down to Brazil, trained hard for this thing, got into great shape, the camp was raving about him. He got caught in a submission tonight. B.J. Penn is one of the legends of the sport and helped build this company. I would love to see B.J. retire.
“B.J. Penn has nothing left to prove. I say it all the time, fighting is a young man’s game. This is not for older men. B.J. is a multiple-time world champion in multiple divisions and he’s got nothing to prove. People love him and he’s a legend and he’s done it all and there’s nothing left to do in my opinion.”
This is not the first time White has suggested Penn hang up his gloves, nor would it be the first time that Penn himself has mentioned retirement. He took a brief break from the sport after a loss to Nick Diaz back in October 2011, and then again after a third loss to rival Frankie Edgar in July 2014. That second retirement lasted two-and-a-half years before he embarked on a third Octagon run in 2017 that has yet to yield a victory.
White admitted that the matchup with Hall was booked because it was a good stylistic fit for Penn and would also be a feather in the cap for Hall, who ended up making history with his submission victory.
“Listen, I don’t want to piss B.J. off because I love B.J., I would love to see B.J. retire,” White said. “So in setting up this fight, it set up the perfect fight where it’s a submission match between two incredible submission guys and for him to submit B.J. the way that he did as fast as he did, it’s a big deal for that kid. And I’m sure, like Rogan said, he grew up idolizing B.J. Penn so to be able to pull that off is incredible.”