Yesterday (Sept. 7, 2011), it was announced to a shocked mixed martial arts (MMA) community that Nick Diaz would no longer be taking on Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre for the title.
It was also announced that Carlos Condit would be taking his place.
It's the fight version of "musical chairs." It's not new. We're starting to see it more and more. It's fun to watch as the UFC rolls out newer, revised versions of their event posters. Their graphic artists stay busy.
We know who "The Prodigy" isn't fighting. We also know that he was not even aware of this fact until it was made public at Dana White's press conference yesterday (which was originally supposed to be a run-of-the-mill media call that featured St. Pierre and Diaz).
So who's got next?
The option most fans probably conjured up first was top contender Jon Fitch. It makes sense on multiple levels.
Fitch and Penn fought to a draw at UFC 127 on Feb. 27, 2011. The fight lacked (and continues to lack) resolution. Fitch even came out and said publicly that he is "ready and willing" to do the fight.
Dana's not interested. Why? His ostensible reason is that Fitch couldn't be ready in time. I won't call Dana a liar, but that doesn't seem to jive with what we're hearing from the Fitch camp.
The truth is that Fitch got on White's "bad list" a long time ago. He hasn't done himself any favors since that point, going as far as to (recently) say that he will only fight title holders or former title holders.
Dana doesn't like to be told what to do.
So if Fitch is out of the picture, who might be an option?
This morning, First Round Management "super agent" Malki Kawa tweeted the following:
@malkikawa: On the plane home to mia... Crazy 24hrs but well worth it. Have more news to announce this afternoon ;)
Could Malki possibly be alluding to another one of his clients who might be stepping in as a replacement for Condit?
It's long been rumored that Melendez would be joining the UFC ranks. It's just a matter of time. They needed the right fight for Melendez in order to justify bringing him over. Dana isn't just going to bring him over for any fight or any reason. A need must necessitate his acquisition.
I would speculate that it's at least possible that Penn could step back down to 155 pounds to welcome Melendez to the UFC. It would be a massive draw and a potentially spectacular fight.
It just isn't probable. Penn has been eating, training and living as a man who was going to fight at 170 pounds. It's a lot to ask him to make that change.
Kawa also manages Thiago Alves, who is currently set to fight Papy Abedi at UFC 138 on Nov. 5 in Birmingham, England. Alves' last fight ended in a somewhat controversial decision loss to Rick Story at UFC 130 on May 28, 2011.
Though Alves does currently have an opponent, it wouldn't be the first time the UFC decided to pull one of their fighters off an existing match to satisfy a bigger need.
Alves has long been regarded as one of the better strikers in the division. Penn would most likely have a large advantage on the ground, but if the bout went down, there would be fireworks.
All of that is speculation until the UFC announces Penn's actual opponent.
Who do you Maniacs want to see Penn take on at UFC 137?