Almost immediately after former UFC Lightweight and Welterweight Champion BJ Penn knocked Matt Hughes out in the co-main event of UFC 123 last weekend, it was announced that the Hawaiian scrapper would next be matched up with perennial welterweight contender Jon Fitch. Speaking with USA Today recently, Fitch confirmed that he and his team have agreed to the bout and the American Kickboxing Academy product discussed what the fight means to him as well as what he thinks Penn brings to the table.
“I’m surprised that they switched opponents, but I’m glad they did,” said Fitch, who was scheduled to face Jake Ellenberger at UFC 126. “I think it’s an awesome match-up, I think it’s an awesome fight, I think the fans are going to be very happy about this. I’m very happy to get a chance to headline a card.”
Recently passed up for a title shot by Octagon newcomer Jake Shields, Fitch is looking for a way to prove himself worthy of a title shot beyond a shadow of a doubt. He believes that defeating BJ Penn impressively will do that and will also further cement his legacy as a fighter.
“BJ’s a legend. He is. He’s been around for so long and everybody knows who BJ is,” he asserted. “This is my, I guess, second opportunity to fight a legend. GSP was probably the first one. You’ve got to beat a legend to become a legend, so this is a great opportunity for that.”
Having only fought two separate opponents in his five fights at welterweight (Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes) with his only victories coming against Hughes, it is unclear how Penn will match up with other top-tier 170-pounders. Fitch understands that, but also understands all of the tangible and intangible factors that come along with facing BJ Penn that always ensure the Hawaiian is a dangerous opponent.
“He’s got a lot of natural abilities, with flexibility and strength or whatever, but it really comes down to his spirit, his warrior spirit, and the fact that he always comes to fight,” Fitch said. “That always puts him in every fight. That makes him dangerous. He’s BJ Penn; he always brings that with him.”
Penn and Fitch are expected to face off at UFC 127, which will be going down February 27th at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.