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B.J. Penn enters UFC 137 in precarious position

It’s unlikely that win over Nick Diaz would be enough to get Penn title shot

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Sam Morris

A dazed B.J. Penn tries to fend off Georges St. Pierre in the fourth round of their welterweight title bout at UFC 94 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

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B.J. Penn is done trying to decipher how close or far he might be from another title shot.

The 32-year old UFC veteran has learned over the years that it’s too confusing to keep track and is forever fluctuating. All the two-time UFC champion knows is that he’s hungry for another belt.

“I’d love to get another shot at the welterweight title one more time, or if possible, maybe get the lightweight one more time,” Penn said. “But I’m not going to sit there and dwell on it.”

Penn (16-7-2 MMA, 12-6-2 UFC) finds himself in the UFC 137 main event Saturday against Nick Diaz in a bout that’s a kind-of, sort-of title eliminator. If Diaz (26-7 MMA, 6-4 UFC) wins — and cooperates with media activities planned for him throughout the week — UFC President Dana White said it would be difficult not to give him the next crack at the winner of a future fight between Georges St. Pierre and Carlos Condit.

Penn received no such proclamations, as White has actually hinted against the Hawaiian fighting for the 170-pound title. Penn, who held the UFC lightweight belt before losing it to Frankie Edgar last year, has gone winless in his last two welterweight championship fights and has two losses against current champion St. Pierre.

“I don’t know how many people are clamoring to see B.J. vs. GSP again,” White said.

It’s a fair point, but also contradictory to statements from earlier this year. When Penn faced off against Jon Fitch in the headlining bout of UFC 127 in February, White declared that the winner would become the No. 1 contender.

It didn’t work out, as the bout ended in a draw. But Fitch is widely considered the second-best welterweight in the world and was a 2-to-1 favorite in the fight, so it’s hard to understand why Penn’s status in the division took a downward turn.

“One day, you’re fighting for the title. One day, you’re not,” Penn said. “It would be great to get another title, but I just want to keep moving forward.”

Penn was originally scheduled to take on Condit at UFC 137 before Condit was bumped up to face Georges St. Pierre. When Penn heard Condit was out of the way, he immediately started to think about a rematch with Fitch.

Penn was dismayed to learn Fitch would not be recovered from an injury in time for this weekend and the UFC wanted to match him with Diaz, a former training partner.

“It’s not a fight either of us asked for, but it’s a job and at the end of the day, we’ve all got to go to work,” Penn said. “As far as getting the title shot, I think of bunch of it is (being there) at the right time.”

The changes weren’t done yet, as the UFC elevated Penn vs. Diaz to the main event last week after an injury forced St. Pierre out. It’s a shifting the vast majority of fighters would say doesn’t matter, but Penn prefers fighting in the main event.

He tries to keep perspective by remembering how excited he was the first time he appeared in a UFC main event. That came almost 10 years ago against Jens Pulver at UFC 35.

“It’s been a wild ride and I’m very excited to be in the main event,” Penn said. “What more can I ask for? I’m in the main event in Las Vegas.”

In all honesty, there’s a lot more Penn could ask for. He could demand the title shot he wants so dearly.

Penn said he would consider moving back down to the 155-pound division if the path to the belt was clearer there. It’s not at the moment because the current champion, Edgar, has beaten him twice.

Penn doesn’t know how much longer he’ll continue to fight, but don’t plan on his retirement coming before he gets another championship bout.

“If Dana feels I’m impressive in my next fight and he wants to grant me that opportunity,” Penn said, “I’d be very gracious with that offer.”

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

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