The announcement on Tuesday that UFC 132 would be headlined by bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz defending his belt against rival Urijah Faber brought up one vital question.
What happened to B.J. Penn?
The former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion had been slated to face Jon Fitch in a main event rematch on the July 2 card, but a shoulder injury, as first reported by MMAWeekly.com, sidelined the former Purdue wrestler, knocking him out of their scheduled bout.
All signs pointed towards Penn remaining on the card, but against a different opponent. One man who wants the shot at Penn is former WEC champion Carlos Condit. He’s hoping to land the fight against the Hawaiian, but as of right now it’s become a waiting game.
Condit’s manager, Malki Kawa of Authentic Sports Management, tells MMAWeekly Radio that they have asked for the fight with Penn, but as of right now no decision has been made.
“To be honest with you, we’ve asked for that fight. We’ve put our name in the hat for that fight. I know Joe Silva’s hopefully going to try to make that fight. If B.J.’s healthy and can take that fight, hopefully he will,” Kawa said.
Generally, the UFC moves pretty fast with replacing fighters when someone is injured, but Fitch’s exit from the card happened late last week and as of now, no announcement has been made about a new fight or even if Penn will remain on the card at all.
Condit and his management team aren’t sure what’s holding up the process either, but they are anxiously awaiting a decision.
“I’m not really sure what’s holding it up right now. Hopefully Condit’s the guy they call to do it,” Kawa stated. “I don’t know if there’s a better fight than Condit for him, but we’re excited about the opportunity and hopefully, if Joe Silva, B.J. Penn, and the UFC feel like it’s something they want to do, Carlos is itching. He texts me every day ‘any word on B.J.?’ I’m hoping that’s what happens for him.”
Condit has been out of action since late 2010 when he knocked out former title contender Dan Hardy. He was set to return in February at UFC 127 against Chris Lytle, but a knee injury forced him out of the contest.
Even before the Lytle fight was scheduled, Condit had been begging for a shot at a top-level opponent. When the chance to fight B.J. Penn arose, he couldn’t dial the phone fast enough to ask for the shot.
“The truth is, before that whole Chris Lytle thing came about, (Carlos) was asking for (Josh) Koscheck, he was asking for Jake Shields, he was asking for everybody who was considered top five. Every single guy, he’s just like ‘go get any one of these guys,'” Kawa commented.
“A guy with a win over B.J. Penn not only gets a title shot, but becomes one of those guys that when he walks down the hall at a UFC fight gets mobbed and swarmed (by fans). I think the guy’s ready for it.”
Penn has remained fairly silent since the news that Fitch was injured broke. There’s been no word if he has also dealt with an injury or wants to sit and wait to settle the score with Fitch when he’s healthy.
As far as Condit’s side goes, they know Penn is one of the toughest and best fighters in the world, and they are confident if he’s healthy it makes perfect sense for the two welterweights to square off in July.
“If B.J. Penn is not hurt, I don’t see how he does not do that fight,” said Kawa. “This kid is not someone that’s going to turn fights down.”
The UFC also announced on Monday that former Pride champion Wanderlei Silva would be making his return to action on the same July 2 card against Chris Leben. It’s unknown at this time if they will still put Penn on the card or pull him altogether.
One thing is for sure, if Penn still fights, Carlos Condit is the man who wants the job.