by Ken Pishna and Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
BJ Penn was moments away from holding the Ultimate Fighting Championship Lightweight Title. He had champion Jens Pulver in a tight armbar near the fence. But Pulver held strong as time ran out in the second round. Beyond that, it was Pulver that held tough for three more rounds, scoring enough to win a majority decision in the eyes of the judges.
That was January 11, 2002. In the months and years to follow, Pulver would walk away from the UFC over a contract dispute, while Penn would start shifting weight classes before ever capturing the UFC Lightweight Title.
Now, five years later, the two will compete in a different forum as coaches on Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter.
MMAWeekly reported in early July that Pulver would be one of the coaches on TUF 5. Pulver recently confirmed this to MMAWeekly as he said, “I am coaching the Ultimate Fighter [Season 5].”
Now, Kevin Iole of the Las Vegas Review Journal has revealed that UFC president Dana White has named Penn as Pulver’s counterpart.
Not only that, but they will have a rematch on the live season finale on Spike TV. White told Iole, “It just felt right to do it that way.” White added, “A lot of people want to see this fight. There have been people asking to see them fight since about an hour after their first fight.”
Pulver’s manager, Monte Cox, confirmed that Penn is taking on the role of Pulver’s counterpart on the show, and that a rematch between the two had been in the works as they negotiated for Pulver.
Penn, who is currently the #3 Welterweight in the MMAWeekly Rankings, will be fighting at lightweight for the first time since 2003 when he takes on Pulver.
Season 5 is scheduled to begin taping in January 2007, with all of the competitors coming from the lightweight division. Up to this point, there were two weight classes represented on each season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Season 5 is tentatively scheduled to air on Thursday nights starting on April 5, 2007, although there is also a chance that TUF could be moved to a different night of the week if the pro wrestling show TNA Impact continues to meet Spike TV’s ratings expectations in primetime. (Last week’s episode of TNA Impact drew a 1.2 overall rating, beating the TUF 4 finale and tying TUF 4’s regular season average.)
There will also be a new UFC Fight Night event on the night of the season premiere to serve as a lead-in to the new season, as was the case with TUF 3 and TUF 4.
This puts the live season finale with Pulver-Penn II on track to take place in late June or early July.