by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn will have to wait just a little longer to face Georges St. Pierre, the man he’s set in his sights since conquering the 155-pound division. But it won’t be too long; manager J.D. Penn tells MMAWeekly.com that UFC president Dana White has named Jan. 31 as D-Day for B.J.’s next incursion into the 170-pound division. Penn and company had originally anticipated a showdown with St. Pierre at UFC 92 on Dec. 27 in Las Vegas.
“He’s staying strong and focused,” J.D. says. “Jan. 31 gives him an extra month to train.”
In a recent interview with MMAWeekly.com, B.J. said he’s pulling out all the stops in preparation for the fight. It’s not just an issue of avenging a loss – he dropped a split decision to St. Pierre at UFC 58 in his second go-around as a UFC welterweight – but advancing the sport to a higher level.
“St. Pierre, he’s got his Canadian fans, his American fans, his fans all over the world,” B.J. said. “I could see in one night that fight jumping the sport of mixed martial arts leaps and bounds. It could be maybe the Joe Frazier/Muhammad Ali type fight that the sport is looking for right now.”
The UFC’s Super Bowl weekend cards have taken on increased importance since the sport’s meteoric rise in visibility. With Penn and St. Pierre coming off extremely impressive performances at UFC 84 and UFC 87, respectively, the event has the potential to splash black ink across Zuffa’s first quarter balance sheet for 2009.
UFC president Dana White recently told Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports that the company was having a retreat this week to figure out the marquee fights for the four yet to be announced cards, starting with UFC 91 on Nov. 15 in Portland, Ore.
As of yet, no other fights have been rumored or confirmed for the Jan. 31 card in Las Vegas.