It’s not all that contentious to say that BJ Penn and Khabib Nurmagomedov are the two greatest Lightweights to ever set foot in the octagon but there’s been plenty of discussion as to who rightfully owns the top spot. There are plenty of similarities between the two, both started out as grapplers first and foremost but also managed to develop their striking game to a respectable level by the time that they reached the peaks of their respective careers. One huge difference however is the type of grappling martial art that they actually got their start in.
Penn is famous for having one of the shortest journeys to black belt in the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and then becoming the first non-Brazilian competitor to ever win an IBJJF world championship gold medal. Khabib however is a two-time world champion in Combat Sambo and has previously worn a shirt saying ‘If Sambo was easy, it would be called Jiu-Jitsu’ that riled up the community at large. Since then, he’s attracted callouts from a number of high-profile BJJ stars like Garry Tonon and Dillon Danis who would want to compete against him in grappling matches.
Since then, Khabib has retired from professional MMA competition and has moved on to a completely different sport, recently signing for a tird-tier Russian soccer team. While Penn has also retired in the past, he’s also since returned to UFC competition unsuccessfully and is still open to competing in other combat sports like Boxing. Despite the troubles he suffered towards the tail-end of his career, Penn is always celebrated for his willingness to move up in weightclasses and fight against bigger opponents. At one point, he moved all the way up to Heavyweight to compete against a surging Lyoto Machida.
This is actually the one criticism that many fans have of Khabib’s undefeated career, as he never moved up to Welterweight to challenge the for a second belt. Penn appears to be one of those that feel this way, and he believes it’s because Khabib ‘is not proficient and confident in his jiujitsu’ despite him having trained with bigger partners numerous times throughout his career. BJ Penn made the explosive statement about the proficiency that Khabib Nurmagomedov has in Jiu-Jitsu in a post to his official Instagram account: