Two of the UFC’s most dominant champions, Anderson Silva and BJ Penn, both fight on the UFC 112 card next month and it appears that both are now have their sights set on new challenges at a heavier weight-class.
“My goal is still to put on as many great fights in the UFC, as many victories as I can throughout the three divisions — middleweight, light heavyweight and possibly heavyweight,” Silva stated in a tele-conference for the UFC 112 event. “Heavyweight is definitely something I have in mind. It’s in my plans. I’ve been adapting my training and ever-changing to take on that challenge.”
Of course Silva has successfully competed at 205lbs before – easily defeating James Irvin and Forrest Griffin, but he has mentioned in the past his interest in fighting at heavyweight – suggesting Frank Mir as someone he would be keen to test himself against.
Dana White may have other ideas however, at least in the short term. The UFC president has made it clear in the past that he is only interested in fighters moving up divisions if they have cleaned out their current weight-class.
In Silva’s case that’s close to being a reality, though he still has to get past his current opponent Demian Maia, while fighters like Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen also remain viable candidates.
Having been granted permission to fight at light-heavyweight previously it’s likely that he could continue to fight between those two classes, but I suspect White would want him to clean out the 205lb division before giving him access to fight at heavyweight.
Another fighter contemplating a move up in weight is BJ Penn who will have successfully defended his lightweight title four times if he overcomes Frankie Edgar in Abu Dhabi on April 10th.
It’s becoming evident that there are few challenges left for Penn at lightweight, and having previously held the welterweight title belt it makes sense for him to move back up to 170lbs to attempt to regain the belt and avenge his previous losses to Georges St.Pierre.
“If everything goes well, I’d definitely consider moving up to 170,” Penn acknowledged at the tele-conference. “Not that it’s 100 percent guaranteed, but I’m thinking about it. If I do move, I’m going to move slow. I’m not going to rush anything. I’d think about it as testing the waters, maybe do something like Anderson [Silva] is doing [at light heavyweight].”
Earlier in the month Penn confirmed on his own website that Dana White was ready to back his ambition to return to the welterweight weight-class.
“Dana has expressed some things to me that he would want to see this year, maybe me in the welterweight division,” he said.
It will be interesting to see what happens if ‘The Prodigy’ does indeed return to 170lbs. Despite having held the belt his welterweight record is just 1-3, though admittedly his four fights have all been against the best the division had to offer at the time (fought both Matt Hughes and GSP twice).
whether he is successful or not I believe that the greats of the sport such as Penn and Silva do deserve the right to challenge at higher weight-classes, so long as they don’t over-extend themselves.
In Penn’s case welterweight should be his limit due to his size, but I believe Silva can eventually make a successful transition up two divisions to heavyweight which careful planning and preparation.