After months of speculation, legendary two-class UFC champion BJ Penn will officially return to the Octagon.
‘The Prodigy’ will face off with featherweight Dennis Siver on the main card of June 4’s UFC 199 from The Forum in Inglewood, California, UFC President Dana White confirmed to Yahoo! Sports today.
Penn was last seen losing his third consecutive match to top-ranked featherweight Frankie Edgar at July 2014’s The ultimate Fighter (TUF) 19 Finale, a brutal affair that saw him retire afterwards. Penn has lost three of his last four UFC bouts, with the fourth a draw versus Jon Fitch at 2011’s UFC 125, and five of his last seven.
Before the disappointing downswing, however, Penn cut a swath in MMA history as arguably the most dominant lightweight champion in promotion history, submitting Joe Stevenson for the belt in 2008 before defending it three times against Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian, and Diego Sanchez. He also famously won the welterweight title over Matt Hughes in his 170-pound debut at UFC 46, and his UFC 58 decision loss to Georges St. Pierre is still talked about as a robbery.
Penn will return to the UFC as a member of the Hall of Fame, having been inducted into the select group last summer.
Some dire allegations threatened his return to fighting when he was accused of sexually assaulting the girlfriend of a former editor at his website BJPenn.com, but UFC executive Lawrence Epstein said Penn had been cleared of all charges after an investigation:
“We have taken a look at the available facts, which aren’t too substantial, and there are two stories of what happened,” Epstein said. “To date, there has no action at all taken by any law enforcement agency. We decided to allow B.J. to fight. However, we are going to continue to monitor to the situation. If new information, more information, becomes available to us, obviously, we reserve the right to re-evaluate.”
Penn has apparently taken his newfound return seriously, moving his camp to Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA in Albuquerque after the main critique of the ultra-talented superstar was always that he ran his own camp and it allowed him to slack at times.
He’ll return to action against Siver, another falling fighter who has lost three of his previous five fights.
UFC 199 is headlined by the middleweight title rematch between Luke Rockhold and former champion Chris Weidman, and bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will finally settle his rivalry with Urijah Faber in the co-main event.