Just In If this street fight doesn’t compel the UFC to cut B.J. Penn, what will? | Opinion MMA Life

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They used to have an unwritten rule back in the old-school days of professional wrestling: If you get into a street fight and lose, you also lose your job.

The logic was simple: Back then, the rasslin’ business went to ridiculous lengths to pretend what happened in the ring was a legitimate athletic competition.

If a wrestler went out to a bar after the matches in, say, Shreveport, La., and ended up knocking out a guy who challenged him, that’s good for business. If they lost, and word spread around town a star wrestler was beat by a guy off the street, then people might start questioning whether wrestling was on the up-and-up.

This unwritten rule flashed into my mind Wednesday when two videos emerged of UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn getting into separate altercations outside a Hawaiian establishment called the Lava Shack.

The first video released, which reportedly was the second altercation, showed Penn putting a beatdown on an unidentified, grounded man. We’ve become used to such outbursts from the former UFC welterweight and lightweight champion, much as we did with Jason “Mayhem” Miller before him, whose troubled path Penn eerily follows.

Then the second video emerged, which was the fight that precipitated the previously released video. The second clip shows Penn in the street with the same man. Only this time, Penn’s street foe, whose physique more closely resembles the guys sitting with laptops cageside than the fighters inside the octagon, drops Penn to the concrete with a two-piece combo. The skill level shown in those strikes looks more like the punches a media member might throw if you cut ahead of him in the pre-fight dinner buffet than that of a championship fighter.

The UFC already has plenty of reasona to cut the cord on its relationship with Penn, and we’ll get to those in a moment. But let’s keep this to the in-cage stuff for now.

As of this writing, Penn is still linked to a bout with Nik Lentz, date and time TBD. Lentz is coming off a loss in his last fight (to Charles Oliveira), but he’s still a highly competent professional fighter who has won five of his past eight bouts.

It’s bad enough Penn is already on a UFC record seven-fight losing streak. Bad enough a UFC Hall of Famer’s UFC record is now under .500. At least that giant pile of losses came to professional fighters.

Now, as the UFC has blended in with the scenery of the mainstream sports landscape, a Disney-broadcast entity, you’ve got a Hall of Fame fighter, the pinnacle of your sport, getting knocked out in the middle of the street by a drunken version of King Hippo from “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!.”

If we were using moral arguments to cut Penn from the roster, the fact there’s a restraining order out on him after his wife alleged years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse should have been enough to ditch him a long time ago. He also allegedly threatened a neighbor with a machete earlier this year.

But moral arguments clearly don’t win the day here in the UFC’s Endeavor era. Conor McGregor’s fighter bus attack was used in UFC 229 promotional material. LGBT-murdering Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov was welcomed cageside at UFC Moscow in April. If neither of those items trouble Endeavor CEO Ari Emmanuel, then it hardly seems likely Penn’s actions will move the needle.

So that brings us back to fighting.

Penn has not won a bout since 2010. He went into retirement, returned and has since shown absolutely nothing since. Penn’s most recent loss to Clay Guida at UFC 237, while not as embarrassing as his quick leglock loss to Ryan Hall or the vicious beating he took from Yair Rodriguez, was still the performance of someone who shouldn’t be allowed into a UFC event without a ticket. You can’t even make the argument he’s a draw anymore, as he’s slid down from main events to preliminary fights to less and less fanfare.

By this stage of the game, if you have any role in allowing B.J. Penn to fight – as a promoter, a broadcast partner, an athletic commissioner, a trainer, or a sparring partner – you are enabling a tragedy to continue unfolding right before our eyes.

And since a blind eye has been turned to every valid reason why Penn should no longer be a part of the UFC roster, then maybe this most recent incident, which on the surface might be the least important reason to ditch him, will serve as the final straw.

The UFC spent the better part of a decade lobbying state and provincial governments, spreading the message they’re a real grown-up sport for professional athletes, not anything-goes-bar-brawlers like the previous regime. If they continue to move forward with Penn vs. Lentz, you’re telling your customers that actually some of our elite world-class athletes can’t win a fight with a random drunk off the streets.

Old-school wrestling promoters, who were basically one step removed from carnival tents from an ethical perspective, would have already fired Penn by now after losing his street fight. Let’s set the bar for the UFC about a half-inch off the ground and see if it can clear this hurdle.

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