Remember the rumor as regards the possibility of BJ Penn traveling to Strikeforce to take on lightweight champion, Gilbert Melendez? Turns out, there was more than a little bit of truth in the rumor.
UFC president Dana White confirmed as much on Thursday following the UFC on Fox 3 press conference at the Beacon Theatre.
White revealed two things as regards Penn. One, he wants to return and two, he turned down a fight with Melendez earlier this year. As a result, Melendez will now face Josh Thompson on May 19, but it so easily could have been Melendez versus “The Prodigy.”
The pair spoke in Sweden when Penn traveled with the organization for UFC on Fuel 2 and it was there that the Hawaiian revealed to White that he wanted to return to action sometime in the near future.
“He wants to come back. BJ Penn hit me about a month ago. It was in Sweden. I saw him there and he wants to come back at 170lbs,” said White.
Penn won’t be making another run at the UFC lightweight title, which he lost to Frankie Edgar at UFC 112 on April 10, 2010. Instead, he will try his luck at welterweight, another division where he was once champion.
In his last three fights at 170lbs, Penn has a record of 1-1-1. He knocked out Matt Hughes upon his return to the division. He then drew with Jon Fitch before he lost a decision to Nick Diaz in October of last year. Following the fight, Penn announced inside the Octagon that he was done with fighting.
It seems as though he has since had a change of heart, but earlier this year, he turned down the chance to fight Melendez.
“I tried to send BJ Penn to Strikeforce to fight Melendez. I tried to do it. But it was at the time when BJ was like ‘I’m not fighting for a while.’
“I’ve no idea when he will return though. It’s up to him,” added White.
One thing that is for certain is that Penn will not be rushed back as White said that the former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion can pick his time to return and at what weight class.
“Whenever he is ready. I don’t ever push guys. They know when they are ready and guys know when they want to come back.
“This isn’t a sport where you can just say I know your head isn’t in it right now but get back over here and fight.
“This isn’t that kind of sport. Guys let me know when they are ready to fight.
“I’m done with telling him where to go as regards weight. The guy has handled himself in both weight divisions. Plus when you get to an age, cutting down to 155lbs just doesn’t make any sense any more.”