BJ Penn returns to the Octagon this Saturday at UFC 137 when he meets former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz in the main event of the card.
A welterweight tilt between Penn’s former rival Georges St-Pierre and top contender Carlos Condit was originally slated to headline the event, until an unfortunate knee injury forced the champion to withdraw from the fight last week. Despite the bad blood with GSP, Penn doesn’t blame the champion for pulling out of the fight.
“When it comes to GSP, we have had our problems,” Penn admitted in a blog he penned at Yahoo! Sports. “I said what I said about him in the past, but if he felt like he had to pull out of the fight that’s what it is.
“Carlos is a very dangerous fight for GSP, so I don’t blame GSP for pulling out of the fight. Some fighters go in with bad injuries and some don’t. Like I said, all that really matters is winning the fight. And when GSP and Condit do fight, and if GSP wins, all people will remember is GSP winning.”
Penn, who fought to a draw with Jon Fitch earlier this year in a title eliminator, realizes that a victory this Saturday may not put him back in contention for the championship.
“The funny thing is that title shots – and who gets title shots – are all about timing,” admitted Penn. “If I had beaten Jon Fitch in Sydney in February and not had a draw, I would have gotten a title shot. But now, even if I beat Nick Diaz, I may not get a title shot.
“I realize now it is all about timing, and the timing may not work out for me to get the right title shot unless GSP heals fast and fights Carlos in the next couple of months.”
Despite a title shot not being in the immediate future, Penn understands the ramifications of Saturday’s bout with Diaz.
“Beating Nick Diaz, title fight or no title fight, is a big deal,” he said. “He’s a great fighter and dangerous anywhere. I won’t disrespect him, the fans or myself by not concentrating 100 percent on this fight at UFC 137.”
UFC 137: Penn vs. Diaz takes place this Saturday, October 29, 2011 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. As always, FightLine.com will be providing live round-by-round coverage of the event.