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Fighters relish throwing their weight around

Saturday UFC wins spark talk of shifts

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Sam Morris

Tito Ortiz, left, and Lyoto Machida tussle in the third round of their match Saturday at UFC 84 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The match, won by Machida, may be Ortiz’s last in the UFC.

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Keith Jardine is checked out by Dr. David Watson after suffering an vicious first round knockout by Wanderlei Silva on Saturday.

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B.J. Penn walks away from Sean Sherk after forcing a third-round stoppage in May of 2008. Penn will take on Georges St. Pierre on Jan. 31, 2009 at the MGM Grand.

Ultimate Fighting Championship fans have a special fascination with elite fighters who have the ability to navigate up and down between weight divisions, chasing the most exciting title bouts, B.J. Penn said after stopping Sean Sherk in the headliner of UFC 84 Saturday night.

Consider Penn the poster boy for that brand of mixed martial artist. A former UFC welterweight (170-pound) champion who has fought at 185 and 205 pounds in promotions outside of the UFC, Penn retained his lightweight (155-pound) belt by stopping Sherk at the end of Round 3 in a scheduled five-rounder.

Afterward, he began talking up a return to welterweight and a potential title bout against Georges St. Pierre — a suggestion that appeared to go over well with the sellout crowd of 14,773 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

“It’s obvious what the fans want,” Penn (14-4-1 MMA) said.

UFC President Dana White was noncommittal on the specter of a Penn-St. Pierre megafight.

“We talked about him cleaning out the (lightweight) division (and) I think there’s still one more interesting fight for him there,” White said, referring to the winner of a Kenny Florian-Roger Huerta match.

After stints with rival mixed martial arts organizations earlier in his career, Penn, a jiu-jitsu specialist from Hilo, Hawaii, is focused on winning championship belts in the UFC, he said.

“What you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it,” Penn, 29, said. “This thing is so big now, if you’re getting the chance to step into the octagon, you better be going full speed and give it everything you’ve got.”

MMA veteran Wanderlei Silva also opened options for himself in more than one weight class by scoring a vicious first-round knockout of Keith Jardine in a light heavyweight fight.

Silva could remain in the 205-pound division, which is loaded with talented fighters, though White said shifting Silva to middleweight is a possibility.

“If Wanderlei came to me and said, ‘these guys are huge,’ ” then he would not be averse to a move to 185, White said.

“I’ll fight wherever they want me to,” Silva (32-8-1) said. “I am a UFC fighter.”

His attitude stood in stark contrast to the outlook of Tito Ortiz, who is likely to leave the UFC because of an ongoing personality conflict with White after losing a unanimous decision to Lyoto Machida on the UFC 84 card.

Ortiz, who still generates plenty of fan support, vowed to continue fighting, whether with the UFC or another organization.

“I still see a bright future for me,” Ortiz said. “I want to prove some people wrong. I’m still going to be there in the future, of course. I’m still hungry. I still want to fight.”

Ortiz and White left open the possibility of Ortiz negotiating a deal, though White emphasized “the stuff between Tito and I is very real,” and not a pro wrestling-style contrived feud.

“It’s going to take Tito and I sitting down in a room and talking,” White said. “We haven’t done that in a long time. Tito and I probably have to sit down and talk like a couple of adults — which we’re not. When we do that we’ll see what happens.”

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