UFC Hall of Famer BJ Penn will make his long-awaited return to the Octagon at UFC 199 on June 4, where he'll face featherweight Dennis Siver.
Wrestling coach Israel Martinez confirmed Penn will be fighting June 4:
The UFC later confirmed the news as well, via Twitter:
Per ESPN.com, the 37-year-old hasn't fought since losing the The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale to Frankie Edgar by third-round stoppage in 2014. Penn's last win came against Matt Hughes in 2010. He became a UFC Hall of Famer in 2015, per Mookie Alexander of Bloody Elbow.
Siver, meanwhile, has just one win in his last five fights and hasn't recorded a win since 2014, per ESPN.com.
Per Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports, the UFC made the fight after an internal investigation into allegations Penn committed sexual assault against an ex-employee's girlfriend didn't find any substantial proof.
The allegations stood in the way of a possible fight, but per Lawrence Epstein, the UFC's chief operating officer, a lack of evidence means the fight between Penn and Siver can now go ahead:
We have taken a look at the available facts, which aren't too substantial, and there are two stories of what happened. To date, there has no action at all taken by any law enforcement agency. We decided to allow B.J. to fight. However, we are going to continue to monitor to the situation. If new information, more information, becomes available to us, obviously, we reserve the right to re-evaluate.
Per Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden, Penn reportedly looks in fantastic shape:
Penn is considered among the greatest lightweight fighters in UFC history and played a massive part in the increased popularity of the organisation's smaller fighters. He and Randy Couture remain the only two men to ever hold UFC title belts in multiple weight classes.
Back-to-back losses against Edgar in 2010 appeared to signal the beginning of the end for Penn, however, and following a third loss against Edgar in 2014, which pushed his winless streak to four fights, he retired, per MMAJunkie.
He announced his return to training in January during an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour (via MMA Fighting's Shaun Al-Shatti) and confirmed he was working with Greg Jackson, one of the sport's top trainers. Per MMA Fighting's Marc Raimondi, Jackson's involvement was enough reason to get excited:
Siver's recent slide followed a strong streak from the German, who won six of seven before a third-round loss against Cub Swanson in 2013. He looked overmatched against Swanson and Donald Cerrone, and Conor McGregor comfortably beat him by knockout last year.
On paper, Siver presents a less daunting challenge than Penn's last two opponents―Edgar and Rory MacDonald―but the veteran was soundly beaten in both of those fights and looked nothing like the featherweight star fans know and love. Penn is winless since 2010, and it will take a heroic effort to change that against Siver.
UFC 199 will be headlined by the middleweight title rematch between Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman, while Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber will meet for the bantamweight title.