- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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The UFC welterweight division will have its next No. 1 contender by the end of the month.
A future title shot will be on the line Feb. 27 when B.J. Penn faces Jon Fitch in the main event of UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia. The pay-per-view bout will air live in the United States on Feb. 26 because of the time difference.
While the UFC hasn't marketed the fight as a No. 1 contender's matchup, president Dana White says it's so.
"They're definitely in the title picture," White said Tuesday during a conference call announcing the news. "B.J. Penn has held titles in [multiple] weight classes. Fitch has literally dominated the division for a long time but just couldn't win the title.
"Either one of these guys who wins this fight is in the mix -- not in the mix, they're the No. 1 guy."
Penn (16-7) is coming off a 21-second knockout win over Matt Hughes at UFC 123 in November. It was his first fight at welterweight since January 2009, when he lost to Georges St. Pierre in a title bout.
Seven of Penn's last eight fights have been for either the welterweight or lightweight title -- a fact Penn says is far from his mind as he prepares for Fitch.
"As of now, I'm not even thinking about that," Penn said. "I'm not thinking about titles. I'm just happy to be fighting an opponent of Jon Fitch's level."
Fitch (23-3) is 13-1 since joining the UFC in 2005. His lone loss came at the hands of St. Pierre in a title fight in August 2008.
Currently riding a five-fight win streak, Fitch finally appears poised for another chance at a title if he can get by Penn.
"I don't really want to waste any time thinking about anything more than fighting B.J.," Fitch said. "As a welterweight, I have certain advantages in size but that won't be enough. I've had to work a lot on speed, explosiveness and keeping everything tight to make sure there aren't any mistakes in this fight."
St. Pierre (21-2) will look to defend the 170-pound belt against Jake Shields (26-4-1) at UFC 129 on April 30. Should he win, the welterweight division could receive a big shakeup, as it's expected St. Pierre would vacate the title and move up in weight.
Brett Okamoto covers mixed martial arts for ESPN.com.
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