The last time BJ Penn was standing inside the Octagon, the former two-weight world champion was saying his final goodbyes.
At the Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale’s post-fight press conference, “The Prodigy” broke down in tears as the realization of his retirement set in after a legendary career that spanned more than 13 years.
Penn said he didn’t belong in the Octagon anymore.
But something changed for the UFC Hall of Famer when he saw Mark Hunt compete for the interim heavyweight title at 40 years old. The Hawaiian knew he still had something left.
Penn phoned longtime adversary head coach Greg Jackson in Albuquerque to find out the instructor’s thoughts on a potential return. The two quickly agreed that together, finally after all these years, they could resurrect the great Penn’s career.
After more than a year since Penn made his feelings known about a return, he will make the walk once again in Phoenix Sunday night on FS1.
The return of the legend BJ Penn is the No. 1 reason to watch Fight Night Phoenix.
2. Electrifying ‘El Pantera’ flies again in Phoenix
It’s hard to find prospects with both the skills and the flare to truly develop into superstars. But since Yair Rodriguez first stepped into the Octagon, the Mexican aerial artist made his mark as one of the top rising fighters in the featherweight division.
Since then, Rodriguez has amassed a perfect 5-0 UFC record to extend his win streak to seven in a row. The striking phenom also trains with wrestling guru Izzy Martinez, making him one of the more well-rounded ranked fighters at 145 pounds.
Rodriguez lands his punches and doesn’t take nearly the same amount in return. He’s out-struck all five of his UFC opponents and enjoys a +1.6 per minute strike differential. That is the second-best mark among active featherweights.
Rodriguez faces BJ Penn in the main event of Fight Night Phoenix.
3. Performance bonus specialist in action
4. Pettis looks to extend streak
Sergio Pettis has won two in a row and finally seems to have built some momentum in the flyweight division. He has long been one of the most hyped prospects in the division and now faces a top contender in John Moraga.
A win against No. 8-ranked Moraga could be the springboard No. 15-ranked Pettis has been waiting for. At just 23 years old, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin product is still just beginning his career.
5. Ansaroff featured on FIGHT PASS prelims
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Ansaroff takes on Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger, who has also lost her first two in the UFC. The winner here keeps hopes alive of ascending in the strawweight division.
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Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC