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UFC 94:

White offers big plans beyond next week’s big fight

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Sam Morris

B.J. Penn walks away from Sean Sherk after forcing a third-round stoppage in May of 2008. Penn will take on Georges St. Pierre on Jan. 31, 2009 at the MGM Grand.

The news coming out of Thursday’s Ultimate Fighting Championship media teleconference wasn’t necessarily all that big, but as usual, UFC president Dana White’s proclamations were.

Not only did the main man in mixed martial arts say he believed the Jan. 31 UFC 94 showdown between B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre will become the biggest pay-per-view event in the organization’s history — topping both UFC 91 with Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar and last month’s blockbuster end-of-the-year show, UFC 92 — but White reiterated his even loftier goal of the MMA someday overtaking the NFL.

“The crazy thing about this sport is we haven’t even scratched the surface on how big this thing is going to be,” White said.

“I know people think I’m a (expletive) lunatic when I say this, but it’s going to be the biggest sport in the world. Bigger than the NFL, bigger than soccer, bigger than anything out there.”

“In this country, nothing can compete with the NFL,” White continued. “But the NFL can’t go into other countries. Nobody gives a (expletive) about the NFL in England, Germany or any of these other places, because they didn’t grow up playing it. They don’t understand the rules.”

White said his sport not only appeals to a particular demographic among MMA diehards, but fighting relates to every human on the planet on a basic level.

“I don’t care what country you come from, what color you are, or what language you speak, at the end of the day we’re all human beings and fighting is in our DNA,” he said.

Penn chimed in on the conversation, reminding reporters that MMA fighters are the baddest athletes on the planet.

“Mixed martial artists knock out K-1 athletes and tap out world champion grapplers,” he said, before later making fun of St. Pierre for enlisting the help of a sports psychologist.

St. Pierre laughed at Penn’s quip.

“I don’t have any psychological problems. It just helps me to perform better,” said the UFC’s welterweight champ.

“Fighting is not all about strength and technique. ... The mental part is very, very important.”

The two fighters engaged each other in a couple of interesting exchanges during the 45-minute-long media session, a signal that not all the head games are being played out on Spike TV’s “UFC Primetime.”

Penn made sure to point out that the three-part prefight special isn’t portraying his training 100 percent accurately.

“Definitely not a true representation of how my training was going. You would have to think I’m crazy to throw it all away like a time like this,” Penn said.

But the back and forth verbal barbs seemed to only add fuel to White’s already stoked stance for next Saturday night’s fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

“You’re lucky if you see three or four of these fights in your lifetime,” White said. “Two of the best fighters in the world in their weight classes — both champions — facing each other both in their prime.

“I know I keep saying this every time we put on another event, but I think this is going to be the biggest one we've ever done (on pay-per-view).”

Perhaps until the next big one, which White said if GSP wins could set up a future mega-bout against middleweight champ and widely recognized pound-for-pound king, Anderson “The Spider” Silva.

“I think the winner of this fight comes out a huge superstar and anything is possible,” White said. “Except for B.J. moving to 185 to fight Anderson Silva.

“B.J. is going to go down in history as one of the greatest lightweights in history. Georges St. Pierre has the opportunity to possibly beat B.J. Penn for the second time and possibly move up and take on Anderson Silva at 185 pounds.”

But White warns that trying to hold two titles at the same time is one tough task in MMA.

“It’s not boxing where one guy moves up six weight classes because he’s only jumping up three or four pounds,” he said.

“To hold two different titles in two different weight classes with the big jump in this sport is a big deal and something to be proud of.”

Andy Samuelson is a sports writer/editor for the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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