BJ Penn is booked to fight Joe Stevenson at UFC 80 for the interim lightweight title at The Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England, on January 19.
The Hawaiian was penciled in to fight Sean Sherk at UFC 78: "Validation" next Saturday. However, a bureaucratic mess with the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) has delayed the match up indefinitely.
Sherk -- the reigning 155-pound champion -- is appealing a steroid suspension following his unanimous decision win over Hermes Frank at UFC 73: "Stacked" in July. The final CSAC ruling will be announced on November 13.
Fed up with the entire situation, UFC President Dana White announced last week that Sherk would now keep his belt regardless of the CSAC decision. Prior to those statements, he indicated that Sherk would be stripped of his belt if the steroid finding was upheld.
That creates a potential scenario in which there will be two 155-pound champions -- Sherk and the winner of the Penn/Stevenson bout. The idea is to then have a "unification-type" fight sometime in 2008 to declare an undisputed division champion.
However, in a recent article in the Honolulu Advertiser, Penn reveals that he has no interest in fighting Sherk if he is found guilty of using steroids.
Here's a snip from "The Prodigy:"
"If he did win the belt by cheating, that's ridiculous. But he's the one who has to live with it. Just like bodybuilding.... If guys are cheating, maybe there should be two divisions."
It's important to note that Penn wants to eventually fight Sherk. However, "only if Sherk is cleared of the steroids charge."
Worst case scenario for the UFC: CSAC finds Sherk guilty and Penn beats "Daddy" on January 19, setting up a scenario in which Penn refuses to fight Sherk and unify the lightweight title.
More potential drama surrounding in the 155-pound crown.