B.J. Penn will return to the Octagon as a coach, and then, for the first time, as a featherweight.
The former champion will coach against fellow former lightweight champ and current featherweight contender Frankie Edgar on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, and the two will apparently fight each other in the featherweight division.
The news came Tuesday evening on the UFC Tonight broadcast on Fox Sports 1, and it was confirmed on Twitter by broadcaster Ariel Helwani.
BREAKING: B.J. Penn & Frankie Edgar will coach the 19th season of TUF + then fight each other in a FEATHERWEIGHT bout next April #ufctonight— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) September 11, 2013
The 34-year-old Penn, a former UFC lightweight and welterweight champ, has kept a relatively low profile since December, when he lost an embarrassing decision to welterweight Rory MacDonald. The loss was Penn's second straight, and he has not won a professional MMA fight since November 2010.
Penn (16-9-2), who has never fought professionally at featherweight, lost to welterweight Nick Diaz by decision at UFC 137, and subsequently announced his retirement. The loss elicited calls from fans and pundits for Penn to return to lightweight, the division many see as Penn's natural weight class.
Penn has long been known for his desire to compete in different weight divisions. In 2004 he defeated Hall of Famer Matt Hughes for the welterweight title. In 2005 he fought eventual UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida (and lost) in a catchweight bout.
The 31-year-old Edgar (16-4-1) held and defended the UFC lightweight title over the course of more than a year. The New Jersey native, known for his toughness and hard-nosed-boxing-predicated-on-wrestling style, first broke onto the title scene when he upset Penn in 2010.
As a result, the rivalry between Edgar and Penn is a real one. A rematch between Edgar and Penn, which took place at UFC 118, ended with the same result as the original bout, when Edgar defeated Penn by decision.