All great warriors are made through great battles, and eventually those battles take their toll.

For two UFC fighters, Rich Franklin and B.J. Penn, those great battles have raised them to the the status of legends and put them on the fast track to the Hall of Fame.

Both Franklin and Penn have been great champions in their own respects and dazzled fans in the early days as some of the first few great champions the UFC had to offer. Penn was a highlight draw at lightweight, carrying the 155-pound weight class through a time where the promotion didn’t know if the division would be a draw.

Franklin was an unbeaten middleweight champion and, before running into Anderson Silva, his lone career loss had come against Lyoto Machida in a light heavyweight bout. Franklin defeated Evan Tanner not once, but twice and also appeared on The Ultimate Fighter for it’s second season.

Now, both fighters have hit the end of their careers. It seems there may be a fight left for both guys, but should Franklin and Penn continue?

According to UFC President Dana White, the answer is more obvious for one than the other.

“They won’t say yes (to retiring). I want B.J. Penn to retire. Rich hasn’t taken the punishment some of these other guys have taken,” White said at the UFC 160 post-fight scrum. “His last fight didn’t turn out too well for him, but he’s not some guy who is consistently getting knocked out. He’s not a guy consistently getting injured.”

And he’s right. He is absolutely right.

Penn has taken beating after beating lately, and throwing him to the top of the division isn’t helping anyone. Penn is 1-4-1 in his last six fights, losing to Frankie Edgar twice, as well as Rory MacDonald and Nick Diaz. His fought to a draw against Jon Fitch in a fight where Penn was on the receiving end of a serious beatdown at times.

Penn’s last three fights against top welterweights haven’t gone his way, and it isn’t since his November 2010 fight with Matt Hughes that we saw Penn actually walk away with a win and not receive a beating that only Penn himself could take and move through. Penn’s a tough guy, but watching him take these beatings just makes it apparent that he needs to retire, and retire fast.

I don’t want to see him get beat around, Dana White doesn’t want to see him get beat around and I’m sure 90 percent of fans don’t want to see Penn—a longtime fan favorite—get beat around.

Penn should retire. It’s just a fact with which everybody needs to realize. Penn clearly can’t contend with the top of the welterweight division, and the UFC can’t feed him middling welterweights just to prop up a guy who clearly has lost a step in his last few fights.

It’s been a while since we saw the B.J. “The Prodigy” Penn that was licking the blood from his opponent off of his gloves, the guy who had slick jiu-jitsu complemented with some great boxing. That Penn is long gone, and unless “The Prodigy” finds that Fountain of Youth, he should retire before things go much worse. But Dana White might be right: “B.J. is too tough for his own good.”

Franklin is a different case. He really hasn’t taken the beatings that Penn has in his last few fights. Franklin hasn’t had a winning streak—or losing streak—since 2008, and he has bounced around between middleweight and light heavyweight.

Franklin has beaten some great fighters in that span, including Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva twice. But he also has failed to compete with top guys, losing to Forrest Griffin, Vitor Belfort, Cung Le and Dan Henderson. It’s been a tough road for Franklin, but unlike Penn, his recent performances suggest that he deserves to go out on his own terms, because he clearly can still contend.

Like Dana White, I’m just not sure whether or not the former middleweight champion should retire. Part of me says he has more fight left in him, maybe against a straggling middleweight, such as the winner of Chael Sonnen’s fight with Wanderlei Silva. Maybe the UFC can make that third installment between Silva and Franklin.

But then there’s the fact that Franklin really has nothing left to prove. Maybe it really is time for him to hang up the gloves.

Franklin has done it all: he’s been champion, beaten the top of his division and even taken beatings at the hands of Anderson Silva—only a handful of guys can say that! What is left to prove? What is left to gain at this point in his career? Nothing. He’s just a fighter fans want to see fight.

Penn should definitely retire after the way his last few fights against top guys have gone. Whether he wants to go back to lightweight or continue at welterweight, there is just no way that he can compete at the highest level if his performances are going to look like those of his last few fights. There just isn’t a shot for him to recapture that lost glory.

For Franklin, it’s different. He hasn’t taken such severe beatings and has won a few fights. But there just isn’t anything left to do. At his age, he can’t compete for a title, especially against the top five at either light heavyweight or middleweight. So why bother?

All great heroes are built through the forge of great battles, but every hero has to know when to put their sword in their sheath and just ride off into the sunset.

Photo: Rich Franklin (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.