Many of you have heard the chatter going around the forums and MMA community. Barring a major upset this Saturday at Abu Dhabi, B.J. Penn will once again move up to welterweight. This will mark his second attempt to regain his former welterweight title.
The UFC doesn't have problems finding talented and exciting fighters. The problem they do have is finding competitive challengers for their world-class champions (with exception to Lesnar, as he has had little time to display his dominance over an entire division the same way as Penn, Silva, and St. Pierre have).
The UFC would undoubtedly benefit from having two champions fight each other. George St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva would be a PPV must-see, but with all hopes Of GSP moving up to middleweight to face Anderson Silva being crushed by his PSA-style announcement at UFC 111. This leaves the UFC between a rock an hard place.
How are they going to promote a "superfight" between champions if the outcome has been decided twice ? Luckily this time, B.J. Penn will have to work his way up to face GSP for his title shot. This of course means the UFC will have a exponential amount of main event-worthy matchups.
If Penn starts out as a top-five contender he will have to make it past Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, and Anthony Johnson to get to GSP. If he's top 10, add Paul Daley, Martin Kampmann, Paulo Thiago, and Dan Hardy to that list.
Getting your way to the top of that list is easier said than done. B.J. Penn will have to beat at least two top-10 fighters, in convincing fashion, to even be considered for a title shot.
In order for B.J. Penn to do this is he will need to dedicate himself to doing it the right way, not his way. Penn has more than paid the price for thinking he could jump around weight-classes and still be a world class athlete. I think it's safe to say Penn has learned from his mistakes, learning that shortcuts will only get you further behind in an ever evolving sport.
Combine that with his new strength and conditioning coach Marv Marinovich, and you can honestly say B.J Penn is a new man. Marinovich, who some call a sports fitness guru, seems to someone who Penn has a lot of confidence in.
I know B.J. Penn could never match the physicality of George St. Pierre, but with the right training and time he could narrow the gap. With his mind clear and a full heart, Penn just needs to get his body on board to be complete.
I know some people will never understand why Penn, who looks absolutely unbeatable at lightweight, would throw himself to back into the division that has clearly outgrown him. The doubters will always say, why put your legacy on the line by losing when you can just cement it at lightweight?
I think those statements are just driven home by the fact that the UFC doesn't give out nice-try bonuses, they pay for wins not close fights. It would be better physically, mentally, and economically for Penn to stay at lightweight...But some things are more important in life. It's clear, Penn has his mind set on those bigger challenges, never wanting to be content with what he has.
Now willing to give everything just to push himself to achieve something above his own ability and expectations. B.J. Penn is clearly on a Vision Quest.