by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Each time B.J. Penn prepares to defend his Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight belt, the question arises: with a win, will he return to the welterweight division where he once held the title?
Penn takes on Frankie Edgar in the co-main event of UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi on April 10, and if the Hawaiian comes away with the win, a move to the 170-pound division is something he’s considering.
“If everything goes well on April 10, I definitely would consider moving up to 170. Not that I’m – not that it’s 100-percent guaranteed,” Penn said recently.
“If I do make that move I’m going to move slow. I’m not going to try to rush anything,” he added. “Maybe I would think about it more as testing the waters. I’d talk to Dana and see if he would want me to vacate the belt, but maybe try do something like Anderson (Silva) is doing, test the waters, see how everything is going and see how everything plays out.”
Penn is the only one who knows whether or not he’s already made up his mind to vacate the lightweight division after UFC 112, but his statements seem to foreshadow a move up in weight class.
“I try to just be true to myself and what my own personal goals are. And if I feel in my life that I want to try to take a fight at 170 pounds, I’ve got to stay true to myself and to my motivation,” commented Penn.
“I think a fighter has to stay true to himself and what his goals and accomplishments are, what really motivates him,” added the 31-year-old athlete. “I’ve been the welterweight champion once and in a lot of ways I really wouldn’t mind being the welterweight champion again. And I think it’s just a fun thing to do.”
Penn defeated Matt Hughes at UFC 46, snapping Hughes’ 13-fight win streak to capture the welterweight title. He briefly left the UFC to compete internationally in several different weight classes including heavyweight. He’s 1-3 as a welterweight, losing twice to current titleholder Georges St-Pierre, and losing a rematch to Hughes. He does hold dominating wins over former welterweight contenders Sean Sherk and Diego Sanchez, but in lightweight fights.
Twice Penn has gotten immediate title shots in the welterweight division, at UFC 46 against Hughes and at UFC 94 versus St-Pierre. If he makes the transition following UFC 112, he knows it won’t be for the title bout.
“I had my chance to go straight for the championship and things didn’t work out my way. Of course, anybody would like a free shot for the title. But like I said, I want to take my time. I want to test the waters,” said the lightweight champion. “And it’s exactly what Anderson said, we just want to put on some other great fights.
“There’s some top contenders in the welterweight division, of course there is a champion, and there’s other people. There’s Matt Hughes. There’s a bunch of different fights out there,” added Penn. “That’s what this whole thing is about is about, putting on the biggest and the greatest fights in history.”