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UFC 127:

B.J. Penn feels comfortable as welterweight

Penn has to deal with a bigger, stronger Jon Fitch Saturday

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Duane Burleson / AP

B.J. Penn, left, takes a kick from Matt Hughes during the first round of a welterweight match at UFC 123 in Auburn Hills, Mich. Penn defeated Hughes in 21 seconds of the first round.

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If anything can be labeled as a certainty heading into UFC 127, it’s that B.J. Penn will easily make weight Friday before his Main Event welterweight bout against Jon Fitch.

Penn, who has spent most of his UFC career as a lightweight, is competing up in the 170-pound division for his second straight fight.

“Right now, I’m 165 pounds,” Penn said at a press conference in Sydney, Australia, where the card will be held Saturday at Acer Arena. “But I’ll probably drink four pounds of water to make Fitch think I’m bigger than I am.”

Penn is no newcomer to the welterweight class and actually held its championship belt briefly after beating Matt Hughes at UFC 46 in 2004. Penn has compiled five career UFC fights at 170 pounds, going 2-3, compared with 14 bouts and a 10-3-1 record at 155.

Even with that experience, Fitch should benefit from his frame. Fitch’s walking weight is up to 25 pounds more than Penn’s.

“As a welterweight coming into this fight, I have certain advantages with size,” Fitch said. “But it’s not going to be enough. I’ve had to work on a lot of speed and explosiveness and keeping everything tight to make sure there are no mistakes in this fight.”

Penn isn’t ready to concede any type of advantage. At this point of his career, he said he would rather fight at 170 pounds.

His reasoning is that it helps focus his training efforts on how to beat Fitch instead of cutting weight.

“If someone said, ‘Let’s meet tomorrow at 12 to fight somewhere, your family honor is on the line,’” Penn said, “the first thing I wouldn’t do is stop drinking water and stop eating.”

Penn believes the disadvantages of weight cutting are even more pronounced at a card in Sydney. The main card starts at 2 p.m. Sunday Sydney time, because the UFC wants to keep its customary pay-per-view time slot of 7 p.m. Saturday on the United States’ west coast.

On a typical card, Main Event fighters have about 30 hours to put on weight between Friday’s weigh-in and Saturday’s fight. Because of the time difference, Penn and Fitch should have less than 24 hours at UFC 127.

“I’d rather be in the position to fight,” Penn said. “Twenty hours later, me and Jon Fitch are going to be standing in the ring looking across from each other and I’m going to be happy that I was drinking water and eating as much food as I could the whole time getting ready to fight someone of Fitch’s caliber.”

No one disputes Fitch’s accomplishments. He’s 13-1 in the UFC with his only loss coming to welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, who has also beaten Penn twice.

UFC President Dana White has announced that whoever wins between Penn and Fitch will be next in line to get a shot at the welterweight belt.

Penn’s run as UFC lightweight champion lasted more than two years and three defenses until he lost back-to-back bouts to Frankie Edgar last year.

He moved up to welterweight afterward and knocked out longtime rival Matt Hughes in 21 seconds at UFC 123. Given Penn's enthusiasm about fighting at 170 pounds, some wondered if he was done in the lightweight division forever.

“I don’t think Dana would ever let that happen,” Penn said.

But for the time being, he wants to stick at 170 pounds.

“When it comes to 155 pounds, I don’t even like cutting the weight to make that weight,” Penn said. “It’s not a tough cut for me. I’d probably cut three to four pounds on the day of the weigh-in. But you’ve got to cut down food and you’ve got to cut your water down, and I don’t know if that’s a healthy thing.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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