Remembering the Career of a Legend: Hawaii’s BJ Penn

“Live by the sword, die by the sword.”  ~ Too many

Tonight former UFC two division champion, BJ Penn, lost a decision to Nick Diaz and subsequently announced his retirement from the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and his career as a prizefighter.  Penn was the first non-Brazilian to ever win the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Tournament (Mundials) and would go one to wreak havok upon multiple divisions in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.  He beat others at Lightweight, Welterweight, Middleweight, and almost defeated former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida.  Not bad for a local kid.

Penn, dubbed The Prodigy, grew up in the same town I did, Hilo.  Actually, he was also born on Oahu and his family moved to the Big Island as well.  His younger brother Reagan was my classmate for a few years and I even got bit by one of their dogs.  It was one of those embarrassing stories from youth that I no longer feel embarrassed about but eh, not the best of memories.

I wrote a couple of articles for MMA Hawaii Magazine over the years about BJ.  At the time I was working in politics and getting back into martial arts.  I had started with Muay Thai and found Jiu-Jitsu years later, so following MMA was of great interest.  BJ was the man for many years, considered the world’s best Lightweight and a pound-for-pound great.  The best thing about BJ, IMO, is his Aloha for Hawaii.  Many people that come to Hawaii from other places express their infatuation.  Many who grew up here echo that but there are people like BJ and many others who don’t get the spotlight, who express more than that, they express the Love.

Hawaii is known for its Warrior Spirit, and I’m not talking about the football field variety that UH brings. I’m talking about that ancient before any of us Nature that goes back to the growth of an island nation in the middle of a body of water that held its own for many years, being recognized by other nations as a Kingdom in and of itself, and whose last Queen viewed this, our Home, as a place for any and all who would swear allegiance to it.

Hawaii is a big part of who I am regardless of how I look.  Growing up white in Hawaii is not very easy, regardless if you are mixed (like I am) and your family goes back to the Hawaiian Kingdom (like mine does).  Nonetheless, I support any and all who are able to educate and advocate for our people.  While it won’t be the same not seeing BJ fight again (and I think maybe he’ll come back in a few years back at Lightweight), I am glad that he’s hanging it up.  It was always an emotional thing to watch him fight, same as it is to watch our Warriors play, and watch any other Hawaiian anything take Center Stage. In Hawaii, we support our Native and Adopted Sons and Daughters.

In many ways, Hawaii is kind of like the Little Engine That Could, despite the conflicts that we have (see growing up white above), when you’re local or your Soul is called here, when you’re Heart beats Hawaii, there is no denying our connection here, because of who it has shaped us into.

THX for the memories, Brah!  May your next endeavors be great.  I hope you fight your next battles at the Hawaii State Legislature.  There are plenty in need of KO’s and getting choked there.  Until then, enjoy your family and thanks for representing us.

Update: Penn has since said he’s taking some time off.

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