When discussing the potential greatest lightweight mixed martial artist of all time, two names appear to separate themselves from the chasing pack; the retired duo of Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov and B.J. ‘The Prodigy’ Penn. 

Recently, Khabib, who retired with three successful defences of the undisputed UFC lightweight title as well as an unbested 29-0 professional record, gave his thoughts on who he believes is the second greatest lightweight of all time, naming Hawaiian veteran, Penn

I think the impersonation of the lightweight division was B.J. Penn for a long time,” Khabib said. “I can explain. Despite of (sic) many defeats, he won the lightweight title, defended it and move up to the welterweights, and won the belt there. Then he had lost to one of the best fighters ever, Georges St-Pierre. B.J. Penn, I think we can put him out there.
Given the Dagestani’s undefeated career run as well as a trio of impressive submission stoppages over Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje to close out his career and lodge three consecutive title defenses, Penn named the sambo specialist alongside fellow former UFC champion, Benson Henderson as he gave his talk on GOAT conversation at 155lbs.

I enjoy watching Khabib (Nurmagomedov) fight, I cannot see Khabib saying he is (the) number one lightweight of all time because that does not seem like his style,” Penn posted on Instagram. “I will give my opinion on what I thought of Khabib’s career. Me, Khabib and Benson (Henderson) all had three (successful) title defences (in the UFC). Me and Khabib had three finishes in the three title defenses. I did finish Joe Stevenson to win the UFC lightweight belt and Khabib won unanimous decision over (Al) Iaquinta to win the lightweight belt. That’s four finishes me and three finishes him in title fights. These are just numbers not important to fighting. I do feel that it is the champion’s duty to the sport and fellow fighters to make sure the next world champion is the greatest world champion to step into the ring. I do believe Khabib walked away too early in that respect.

Penn went on to explain that he’s not sure who is the greatest lightweight fighter of all time, but noted his moves and subsequent success at welterweight, middleweight, and at heavyweight.

There are fighters and sportsmen,” Penn posted. “All I ever wanted to do was fight everyone. I was 25 and in my fighting prime when I went up to 170lbs and won the (UFC) belt from Matt Hughes. I cannot blame Khabib for not going up and fighting (Kamaru) Usman for the belt and then sparking a greater conversation of who the best of the two fighters who won the 170 and 155(lbs) belt. The fighters today get fame and don’t want to lose. I will fight anytime until the day I die. I went to Japan and Hawaii and fought in K-1 and Rumble on the Rock at 170, 185, and heavyweight. After years of fighting top fighters and champions I went back to the UFC and took the lightweight belt and the rest is MMA history. I don’t know who is the GOAT lightweight, I was just here to fight.” (H/T MMA Mania)

Throughout his 13 fight run in the UFC, Khabib notably dispatched the likes of Gleison Tibau, Pat Healy, former lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos, Michael Johnson, Edson Barboza, Al Iaquinta, as well as the aforenoted trio of McGregor, Poirier, and Gaethje.

Former two-weight champion, Penn ended his UFC run with an unfortunate string of seven consecutive defeats, however, during the Hawaiian’s pomp, he bested the likes of Din Thomas, Caol Uno, Matt Serra, Takanori Gomi, Matt Hughes (x2), Duane Ludwig, Renzo Gracie, Jens Pulver, Joe Stevenson, Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian, and Diego Sanchez. 

Aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Follow along at @Ross_Markey on Twitter for all the latest news, fight announcements, opinion, and feature pieces.