Former UFC Welterweight Champions Matt Hughes and BJ Penn will settle a trilogy of fights this weekend in the co-main event of UFC 123. The two have gone 1-1 in previous bouts against each other, and will now put a cap on the sequence with the rubber match.
While Hughes is enjoying what many are describing as a late-career renaissance, Penn has fallen in his last two outings–both against current UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar, who took Penn’s belt in their first bout. Considering Penn’s current skid and his recent past at welterweight (his last three bouts contested at 170-pounds have ended in losses to Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, and St. Pierre, respectively), Matt Hughes was not expecting the Hawaiian fighter to be interested in moving back up in weight to face him.
“I really didn’t,” Hughes recently told MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani in response to being asked if he ever expected to face Penn again prior to this fight’s booking. “When I saw BJ lose the second time to Frankie, I was really surprised. I thought BJ would’ve been a different fighter for that fight. I asked Dana, ‘Who’s it against?’ and he said, ‘BJ Penn,’ I was pretty shocked. I’m just surprised that the UFC wanted the fight right now, I’m surprised that BJ wanted the fight right now. Who would’ve guessed somebody to move up in weight after losing twice at a smaller weight. I am surprised but you’ve got to take your hat off to BJ, he’s always wanting to fight the best guys out there.”
Hughes and Penn will look to settle the score tomorrow night at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan in the co-main event of UFC 123. Their bout will be supporting a main event between former UFC Light Heavyweight Champions Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida.