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UFC Lightweight champion BJ Penn will return to the Octagon on December 12th at UFC 107, as confirmed by Dana White. The Hawaiian will defend his title in the main event against “The Ultimate Fighter” season one Middleweight winner Diego Sanchez. Penn stated his desire to remain in active competition following his fourth round submission of Kenny Florian at UFC 101 in early August; the bout making the thirteen week turnaround one of the shortest of his career. He has been undefeated at Lightweight since his January 2002 fight with Jens Pulver and is 4-1 in his last five fights. Sanchez was likely granted the title shot for his 2009 Lightweight campaign that saw him dominate contenders Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida in February and June respectively. With the match he joins Forrest Griffin, Kenny Florian, Nate Quarry, Joe Stevenson and Rashad Evans in the group of Ultimate Fighter alumni who have fought for a UFC belt. It will be his first opportunity to compete for the promotion’s gold.
The Penn/Sanchez bout was likely made out of necessity after Quinton Jackson removed himself from the card in favor of an acting endeavor. Last week, multiple sources reported the fighter being cast as B.A. Baracus – a role made famous by pop-culture icon Mr. T – in the upcoming feature film adaptation of “The A-Team”. Scheduling conflicts caused by filming obligations resulted in the 31 year old choosing not to partake in the year end mega-card. The original main event, booked in Jackson’s hometown, was he against Rashad Evans in a routine battle of TUF coaches that typically happens after the season’s completion. UFC President Dana White expressed his displeasure with having his marquee match canceled for a film:
“I hate it with a [expletive] passion…You’re a fighter; you’re not a movie star. It’s so [expletive] funny because fighters want to be movie stars, and movie stars want to act like they’re fighters. Get a [expletive] grip. You’re a fighter, and you’re (not) a [expletive] movie star. Alright?”
It’s unknown when the Rampage vs. Evans bout will be rescheduled for a later date in 2010 – if at all.