(Damn, Lorenzo Fertitta has really let himself go.)
Dana White made a somewhat surprising announcement during today’s UFC 127 conference call regarding the 170-pound title picture of his promotion.
According to the UFC president, the winner of the UFC 127 welterweight showdown between Jon Fitch and BJ Penn will likely be next in line for a shot at the winner of the UFC 129 championship bout between champ Georges St-Pierre and Jake Shields.
“They’re definitely in the title picture. Let’s face it; the reality is BJ Penn has held titles in both weight classes. Fitch has fought for the title and has literally dominated that division for a long time; [he] just didn’t win the title. Either one of these guys that wins this fight is in the mix — the number one guy.”
Both fighters gave the obligatory, “I’m not looking past my opponent,” speech when asked if they were giddy about the news.
“I don’t want to waste any time thinking about anything other than fighting B.J. right now,” Fitch said.
“As of now I’m not even thinking about [the title shot],” Penn said. “I’m not thinking about titles, I’m just happy to fight an opponent of Jon Fitch’s level and Jon Fitch’s stature.”
What makes the announcement somewhat of a head-scratcher is the fact that Penn has only fought four times in the past five years at welterweight, racking up a less than stellar 1-3 record, having lost twice to St-Pierre and splitting fights with aging former champ Matt Hughes. His last shot at the welterweight title came out of the blue as well after he decided on a whim to move up to challenge St-Pierre at UFC 94 following a debatable loss to him three years earlier.
When Penn won the belt from Hughes, he did so in his first fight at welterweight ever. A win over perennial contender Fitch would certainly raise Penn’s position in the contenders queue, whether or not it *should* earn him the next shot, but what would it do for Fitch’s? Penn is a natural lightweight with a 3-3 lifetime welterweight record and besides Hughes, has only beaten one fighter at that weight: Duane “Bang” Ludwig.
Fitch hasn’t lost since receiving the second blemish to his record at the hands of GSP, but he hasn’t exactly beaten any world-beaters since.
In his last outing he decisioned Thiago Alves who struggled with weight for the bout and was returning to fight for the first time in a year after undergoing brain surgery. He also took Mike Pierce, Akihiro Gono, Ben Saunders and Paulo Thiago to the judges’ scorecards, but none of the fighters on that list are considered contenders.
To be honest, I wouldn’t be overly excited about either fighter facing GSP before he inevitably moves up to middleweight to face Anderson Silva, and let’s face it, there’s a pretty solid chance that he will beat Shields and pack on some muscle mass to take on “The Spider”. I’d much rather see one of the guys who have been working their ways up the ladder like Martin Kampmann, Carlos Condit or Jake Ellenberger get the last crack at St-Pierre before he leaves the division forever.
Ben made a decent point today that there’s a very good chance that we’ll likely never see St-Pierre face Fitch or Penn, and we hope that his theory is correct. Anderson Silva’s only real tests in the UFC at this point at 185 are Yushin Okami and Jorge Santiago, but neither man will likely beat the dominant champ. The UFC knows this and they are also cognizant of the fact that Anderson only has a few fights left before he trades in his four-ounce MMA gloves for 12-ounce boxing ones. They’re going to want to move quickly at the GSP super fight before it loses any luster, meaning some time before 2011 closes. If St-Pierre loses, which is nearly implausible, Shields will likely grind out a decision with Penn or Fitch before giving St-Pierre a rematch.
The UFC needs Nick Diaz to inject some life into the welterweight division, whether he “plays the game” or not.