UFC president Dana White has repeatedly stated that before a champion in any weight class should jump up or down in weight to compete, he should clear out his division of worthy challengers. Apparently White thinks that lightweight champion BJ Penn is close to clearing out the lightweight division and, with a win over Frankie Edgar at UFC 112, may be setting himself up to make another run at the welterweight title.
“The Prodigy” released a video post on his personal website, BJPenn.com, stating, “Dana has expressed some things to me that he would want to see this year, maybe me in the welterweight division. We will see. I have got a tough fight with Frankie Edgar coming up. [And] there is always good lightweight talent, there is a bunch of welterweight contenders up there. I guess I would just have to say I don’t have my mind set on anything yet…. I don’t want to jump the gun and give away all Dana’s plans!”
Penn is no stranger to jumping around in weight; having competed at his current division of 155lbs, all the way up to the 205lbs division and everywhere in between. Penn captured his first title in the 170lbs division from then-champion Matt Hughes in a shocking upset. Although he has looked nothing short of stellar in stopping all challengers from taking his belt in the lightweight division, Penn’s last foray into the welterweight division was much less successful.
In between defending his lightweight belt against Sean Sherk and Kenny Florian, Penn moved up to challenge former opponent Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight crown at UFC 94. In a fight that looked nothing like their first meeting; Penn was controlled and dominated for four rounds before his corner stopped the fight.
The disparity in size between the two fighters was glaringly obvious and likely played a large role in his loss. One wonders if Penn is simply too small to compete against welterweights like Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves that walk around at upwards of 190lbs before cutting weight.
Penn had this to say about his continuing desire to compete against the much larger fighters, “My weight right now – I just finally got a battery for my scale – I think I am about 167.5 or 168. You have got these big guys, they walk around [heavy] and they are strong. I don’t know if I am the only guy, but I think it is about pushing yourself and seeing how far you go and its about failing sometimes – and failing miserably sometimes -but standing up afterwards and realizing what happened, and the mistakes that you made.”
Penn has successfully defended his title three times and many agree that he is quickly running out of worthy challengers to his belt. BJ insists that challenging himself is why he got into the sport of MMA in the first place; but he does not necessarily agree that the lightweight division no longer offers that challenge, he just wants to push himself and test his limits.
“…I think that I cannot picture myself becoming complacent, staying in one place. Not that I could defend the lightweight title for ever, I know that’s impossible, you can’t win every one. But I think there is nothing wrong with pushing yourself, seeing how far can you actually go.”
Penn will square off with Edgar at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi this April. Provided he gets past the very tough Edgar and unless new addition Takanori Gomi beats Kenny Florian impressively, there are not many lightweights that can make a case for really deserving a title shot at this time. The welterweight division offers some very unique challenges to Penn and with his newfound dedication and innovative training regimen, his chances at 170lbs certainly prove intriguing.