Okay, BJ Penn is coming out of retirement again to fight Yair Rodriguez. After a two year lay-off he is at it again and wants that UFC gold. That’s great. I will never knock a man for chasing his dreams. Trust me, I want Penn to win. I bought his books, watched his BJJ channel religiously and even learned a couple of his boxing combinations. I never used them because I thought the four punch combo would leave me too open.
However, Rodriguez is a live wire, unpredictable and has momentum. He is 24, full of fire and venom and has been training non stop for the past few years. Penn just turned 38 and has had long layoffs in the sport. I think this is a dangerous fight for him on many levels and not just because of his age. Age is a factor, but I think retirements are a major factor in tripping up many fighters who return to their sports.
I am recognizing a trend that is prevalent in many sports, but more so in combat sports such as boxing and MMA. Fighters retire and then come back after long lay-offs and put themselves in dangerous positions. They are convinced they are hanging up the gloves and going off into the sunset. However, since a fight is a fight and anything can happen a retired fighter can almost always get an upper tier or championship fight after doing nothing for years. Therefore, they keep coming back.
When I say stop it. I mean stop retiring. I propose that instead of fighters retiring, they instead state they are placing themselves on Inactive Status until the age of 46. By doing this they can avoid many things.
1: Lessen Ring Rust
By claiming an Inactive Status they will know that they will most likely fight again. Therefore, they can continue to train, learn new techniques, evolve as a fighter, stay up to date with inevitable changes in the sport and always be in shape. No, they do not have to train at full tilt. However, they should train hard and smart enough to maintain skills, flexibility, endurance, etc.
2. Spend less Money
By training and staying in shape they can avoid bad habits retired people and people with a lot of money and nothing to do fall into. These habits include eating too much, traveling too much and spending money on unnecessary items to entertain oneself.
3. They will be realistic
Many fighters who go out on top or near the top still believe they can ‘whup’ anyone placed in front of them. All they need is to join up with the best trainer and a great camp. Hogwash! Yes, I said hogwash. They do not know how much they have declined and carry false ideas of greatness.
It is similar to the 40-year-old who thinks he can beat his nephews who run high school track because he used to be a Division I track athlete. He remembers his old glory and doesn’t realize how much he has declined. However, by claiming an Inactive Status (with the full intention of fighting again) he will continue to train and will know how he measures up against up and comers. He will not get surprised. People in your camp and who you bring in to spar and help you out are not going to tell you that you don’t have that “It Factor” anymore. They are just going to pump you up and in worst case scenarios, collect a check.
4. Avoid Missing the Game and coming back to do something stupid
Finally, by claiming an Inactive Status and continuing to train with the full intention of getting better and improving I believe many of the guys who do eventually return will fare better. They will accept or take more appropriate fights and know their limits or if they have any. Also, it will lead to a more disciplined life. When they turn 46 they can hang it up knowing that they had a full fighters experience and don’t have to return to try to check off some boxes they left untouched.
***Fighters who have suffered severe injuries, concussions and other health maladies should never continue fighting. Fighters should always train safely to minimize the effects of CTE and other maladies that come along with combat sports.
What do you guys think?
You can read Bakari’s books: Grappling 101: How to Avoid being Bullied on the Mat, Psychology of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Grappling Games: BJJ & Submission Wrestlers, Tapmonster: Ideas about Grappling for BJJ and Submission Wrestlers, Grappling for Newbies, 20 Ways to Increase Grappling Skills off the Mat, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and much more.
Check out my grappling books on Amazon: Grappling Games: BJJ & Submission Wrestlers, Tapmonster: Ideas about Grappling for BJJ and Submission Wrestlers, Grappling for Newbies, 20 Ways to Increase Grappling Skills off the Mat, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and much more.
I have to admit I love the BJPenn website. The concept is simple but it is fascinating: Follow BJPenn around doing the most mundane stuff in preparation for his fights and media events. The beauty of it is that his life is crammed with the things we BJJers love and that is Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, with a fair amount of MMA.
You get to watch; him run his BJJ academy; see how MMA guys train (like Albert “Always Bad Manners”); fights from what used to be his brother’s promotions; gallons of personalized instruction; training techniques; matches of the day and the list goes on. When I first started visiting the site I was surprised at how much content it provided. It also has the Hawaiian vibe that makes it seem like your taking a mini-vacation in BJJ paradise.
I even thought about what it would be like if I created a website chronicling my life as a professor. You could watch as I read books, perform research, lecture to my classes and try to avoid faculty gossip in the halls. I teach about 75 students a day and deal with a number of staff and faculty so you truly never know what crazy thing they may say or sometimes do. But BJ Penn can seriously say that he is pound for pound one of the best fighters ever and no one would blink. I could make that claim of being the best pound for pound professor but we all know that’s crap (I am very professional and competent though). I may be in the top 100 if you throw in BJJ, although I may be starting something there too.
Anyway, it’s an awesome website and I figure this is the least I can do since I visit it so much and it’s free. But, I also love King of the Cage so I don’t know if you can trust my judgment.
This weekend I watched the DVD, Rumble on the Rock 6, which is a MMA event that is put on in Hawaii. It was pretty interesting all around, but the main event was most exciting for me as I watched BJ Penn soundly defeat Rodrigo Gracie. At the time of their meeting Penn was 5-1 and Rodrigo Gracie was 5-0. They fought at 185 which was a compromise for both fighters since at the time BJ was fighting at 155 and Rodrigo was fighting at 205.
At the end of the bout, Penn did his obligatory interview where he thanked the crowd and stated his oft repeated comments about Hawaii having the best fighters in the world. However, the best part of the interview occured when the announcer asked him what was his gameplan going into the fight. Penn said, “You don’t need a gameplan when you believe in yourself and never quit!”
I know that this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a strategy going in or tactics he won’t use, but it demonstrates what is behind the mystique of his greatness as a grappler and as an MMA fighter.
His thought process.
Those two things; believing in oneself and never quitting are two areas that I am always working on and I am glad that BJ Penn lists it as a fundamental element of success.