Champions shouldn't challenge champions

NEIL SPRINGER -- SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

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Tonight, mixed-martial-arts fans will witness one of the biggest fights in UFC history, when lightweight champion BJ Penn challenges Georges St-Pierre for his welterweight title.

This marks the first time one UFC champion has challenged another for his belt. Regardless of what happens during the fight itself, UFC 94 will be an historic evening for MMA.

But does the gold really need to be on the line?

For starters, Penn hasn't competed at welterweight in almost three years. Even though he's proven to be a force in the lightweight division, that doesn't make him the number one contender at 170 lbs.

If Penn were to win tonight and continue to be victorious, the logistics of having him defend two titles will be a nightmare. With most fighters competing roughly every three months, the best case scenario would see the welterweight and lightweight championships each pop up only twice a year -- if he remains healthy and active.

At the moment, fans have already had to deal with belt defenses being put on hold for entire seasons of 'The Ultimate Fighter.' Combine these two scenarios and UFC title fights could become rarer than the Giant Panda.

Even if Penn loses tonight, it's possible that a similar situation could pop up sometime down the line.

Each fighter who holds a title has a responsibility to defend their gold against the top contenders on a regular basis. At the moment, both Thiago Alves and Kenny Florian have earned their respective shots at St-Pierre and Penn. However, they now have to wait for the result of tonight's main event before those matches can be made. And, depending on the outcome, one fighter may have to kill even more time before that opportunity becomes a reality.

This isn't meant to oppose fighters jumping weight classes. If fans want to see two champions do battle, go ahead, but leave the belts at the octagon door.

After all, if the UFC is confident enough to offer its second PPV event headlined by Keith Jardine -- shouldn't a champion vs. champion dream match be able to speak for itself?

Click here for live coverage of 'UFC 94: St-Pierre vs. Penn 2.'


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