Lightweights BJ Penn (11-4-1) and Joe Stevenson (28-7) will fight for the interim 155-pound UFC belt at UFC 80 in Newcastle, England, on January 19, according to Yahoo!Sports.com.
Current division champ Sean Sherk will remain champion, however. He will not be stripped of the strap regardless of the outcome during a November 13 appeal hearing before the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) for a failed steroid test.
Here's a snip:
"White said he's not going to strip Sherk of his lightweight championship because he is fed up with the California Athletic Commission's handling of Sherk's steroids case. He said Penn and Stevenson ... will fight for the interim title as the main event of UFC 80 ... The winner of that bout would then presumably face Sherk once Sherk's status is defined by the commission."
This bizarre move ensures that the future of the lightweight belt is no longer held hostage by the CSAC. It's a "mess" that has been dragging on since Sherk was popped for allegedly juicing following his unanimous decision win over Hermes Franca at UFC 73: "Respect" on July 7.
Letting Penn and Stevenson battle it out for the title seems like the right thing to do considering all that has happened. But booking it now -- after waiting all this time -- seems to be a case of too little too late.
Especially with a final decision on Sherk (finally) less than two weeks away.
In addition, does the "title shot" mean as much knowing that there is "another" champion in the division?
Seems watered down.
Then again, if Sherk is found innocent of the charges it sets up a marketable showdown between two champions in early 2008.
But what if the ruling is upheld? Will the UFC not strip Sherk, which the article indicates, and let him continue to be considered the reigning co-champion?
This has all the makings to turn into a mess itself. It will more than likely sort itself out in time.
Weird ... but good. For now. I think. Maybe.
Note: Mr. Sunshine has an audio interview with Kevin Iole on his discussion with Dana White right here.