The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Monday officially announced UFC 80: Rapid Fire scheduled for Jan. 19 at the Metro Arena in Newcastle, England.
The main event is a fight for the lightweight interim title between B.J. Penn and Joe Stevenson. There will also be a heavyweight bout featuring Gabriel Gonzaga in a rematch against Fabricio Werdum.
“BJ Penn and Joe Stevenson are two of the top lightweights in the world,” said UFC president Dana White. “Penn is the former world welterweight champion and Stevenson is unbeaten in the UFC as a lightweight. Both of these guys are known for their ground games and their will to win, so not only will it be a great fight, but the winner will become the interim world lightweight champion.”
Penn challenged Jens Pulver for the lightweight title in 2002, but lost by majority decision. He later defeated Matt Hughes for the welterweight title at UFC 46, but relinquished the belt when he left the promotion to fight oversees. He recently returned to the lightweight class and immediately avenged the loss to Pulver by submitting him via rear naked choke in June of this year.
“I’m very excited to be fighting for the UFC lightweight interim title and to be matched up against Stevenson,” said Penn. “Our styles are very similar, and we both want the interim title, so I think it will be a good fight and an excellent fight for the fans.”
One of the most experienced fighters in mixed martial arts, this will be Stevenson’s first shot at a UFC title. Debuting in the organization’s welterweight class, he has gone undefeated since making the move to lightweight with wins over Yves Edwards, Dokonjonosuke Mishima, Melvin Guillard and Kurt Pellegrino.
“I’m really excited to fight B.J., and I’m happy to have the chance to fight for the interim title,” said Stevenson. “I think B.J. is an awesome fighter. He has a dangerous ground game, but I don’t think it will be too big of a factor. And he’s not going to knock me out, so I’m confident that it will be my hand that’s raised at the end of the night.”
Other bouts expected for UFC 80, but not yet confirmed by the promotion include Marcus Davis vs. Jess Liaudin, Kendall Grove vs. Jorge Rivera and Sam Stout vs. Terry Etim.