Sydney, Australia – The Ultimate Fighting Championship® organisation returns to the Land Down Under in 2011, as Sydney's Acer Arena hosts UFC 127: PENN v FITCH on Sunday, February 27. One year removed from the record-shattering UFC 110 at the same venue, the world’s biggest combat sports group returns to Australia with a card stacked with pivotal fights which will set the tone for the New Year.
Headlining UFC 127 will be the intriguing clash between former two-division UFC champion BJ Penn and rugged contender Jon Fitch in a bout with huge implications for the welterweight division.
Tickets – priced $75, $100, $175, $275, $400 and $550 – are available from http://premier.ticketek.com.au. Tickets are available to UFC Fight Club members from noon Tuesday Dec 14, and to UFC Newsletter subscribers from 10am Weds Dec 15 before going on general release on Thursday Dec 16 at 9am.
Leading 185lbs (84.1KG) contenders Michael 'The Count' Bisping and Jorge Rivera meet over three rounds while Australian interest will no doubt peak the moment lightweight George Sotiropoulous enters the Octagon to meet German striker Dennis Siver in a battle of 155-pound (70.5KG) buzzsaws.
Also flying the flag for Australia will be New South Wales’s own Kyle Noke, a former star of The Ultimate Fighter, who meets Chris Camozzi in a thrilling middleweight encounter.
Finally, rounding off the main card action will be a certified barnburner between welterweight bangers Chris Lytle and Carlos Condit, both of whom have hit a career purple patch and have sights set on the 170-pound (77.3KG) title.
UFC Managing Director of International Development Marshall Zelaznik said: “The UFC couldn’t be more excited about bringing another huge show to Sydney following the success of UFC 110 in February 2010. We put on a tremendous event at the Acer Arena in February and we're looking to do exactly the same in the New Year with a card which features fight after fight with huge implications for 2011.”
The pride of Hilo, Hawaii, BJ 'The Prodigy' Penn (16-7-1) requires little introduction following a career spent among the mixed martial arts elite. Considered one of the true pioneers of the sport, 32-year-old Penn has won both UFC Lightweight and Welterweight titles and remains one of only two men to ever win UFC belts in two separate divisions.
Currently campaigning as a welterweight, Penn is fresh from a stunning 21-second annihilation of former welterweight champion and Hall of Famer Matt Hughes at UFC 123. In addition to now twice beating Hughes, Penn also boasts victories over Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian, Joe Stevenson, Jens Pulver and Sean Sherk. The Hawaiian legend has excelled as both a lightweight and welterweight champion and now looks to launch another raid on the UFC 170lbs (77.3KG) title.
Penn said: “I’m excited to fight Jon Fitch. I have considered him to be the number two welterweight in the world for a long time now and I am looking forward to matching skills against an elite wrestler.
“I can’t wait to fight in Australia. As two-time champion, I believe the UFC is all about fighting the best competition anywhere in the world. Competing overseas, dealing with travel and different time zones, it is all part of being a world-class fighter. I’ve also been told the fans down there are crazy for the UFC and I can’t wait to perform for them.”
In Australia, 'The Prodigy' will have to go through Fort Wayne, Indiana grinder Jon Fitch (26-3, 1 NC), a man renowned for his hard-nosed work ethic and conditioning. The 32-year-old grappler has won 13 bouts inside the Octagon and strung together an impressive eight-bout win-streak before challenging for the UFC welterweight title in August 2008.
Since competing for the belt, Fitch has gone on to grab five further victories and claimed the scalps of contenders Thiago Alves, Ben Saunders and Paolo Thiago. One of the most successful UFC fighters of all time, Fitch knows victory over Penn in Sydney could well earn him a second stab at the UFC Welterweight Title.
Fitch said: “This is a fun fight for me, I haven’t been this motivated since I fought for the title. BJ has roots at the AKA Gym where I train and my own coaches talk about him and what he did in the gym back in the day. And I am kinda sick of hearing it; I am like the younger brother who wants to outshine the cool older brother who achieved all these things. To be a legend, you have to kill a legend and I want all the stories to be about how good I am after UFC 127.
“I am a homerun hitter who has hit a slump. But in my slump, I am still beating top guys pretty easy. Now with the improvements I’ve made in the gym, the slump is over and I am going to hit a homerun on BJ Penn. I am going to be a world champion, and I know before that happens I need to finish BJ Penn.”
England's Michael 'The Count' Bisping (21-3) has yet to compete for the UFC middleweight title, but plans to change that in 2011 and is willing to go through any and all competition to earn his shot.
The Manchester warrior has long been considered one of the premier contenders in the 185-pound weight-class and, with back-to-back victories in his rear-view mirror, hopes to continue his rich run of form at UFC 127. A former winner of The Ultimate Fighter®, Bisping has since flourished as both a light-heavyweight and middleweight and has scored recent victories over Yoshihiro Akiyama, Dan Miller, Denis Kang and Chris Leben.
The torch-bearer of British mixed martial arts, a fired-up Bisping returns to Australia in February with the intention of ending Jorge Rivera's own title aspirations.
"Jorge has made a couple of comments and said he wants to 'mess' me up,” explained Bisping. “I don't know what his problem is, but, to me, he is just another opponent that is going to get beat. I am fired-up for this fight and I can’t wait. I think he is tailor-made for me. He is going to get beaten worse than ever before. When I fought in Sydney at UFC 110, the Australian fans booed me. Well, I’ll give them something to boo about, Rivera is getting finished."
A rugged and determined veteran of the UFC's middleweight division, Jorge Rivera (19-7) has never had it easy, inside or outside the Octagon. The 38-year-old turned professional in 2001 and boasts 25 pro contests to his name. Famed for his heavy hands and highlight reel knockouts, Rivera has recently added Nate Quarry, Rob Kimmons and Nissen Osterneck to his list of defeated victims.
Born in Milford, Massachusetts, 'El Conquistador' is on a hot streak of three straight wins and enters this bout with Bisping in the finest form of his career.
“I promise you that I’m going to come to fight hard,” said Rivera. “If Bisping also comes to fight, then we’re going to have a very exciting war. I think I have what it takes to knock him out.”
A native of Geelong, Victoria, lightweight George Sotiropoulos (14-2) may well be Australia's finest fighting export. The talented 155-pounder is undefeated in his UFC career to date and has pieced together six successive wins since competing on season six of The Ultimate Fighter.
The 33-year-old enjoyed a stunning 2010, recording wins over top contenders Joe Stevenson (at UFC 110), Kurt Pellegrino and, most recently, Joe Lauzon at UFC 123. It was Sotiropoulos' February win over Stevenson, however, that truly earmarked the Australian scrapper as one to watch. Competing in front of 18,000 home fans at Acer Arena, Sotiropoulos pitched a mixed martial arts clinic on a seasoned veteran and walked away with a comfortable decision victory.
Sotiropoulos hopes for more of the same when the UFC next visits his homeland.
“That win over Stevenson will forever remain my career highlight, simply because the crowd were so amazing,” recalled Sotiropoulos. “I haven't heard a crowd that noisy since or even before the fight. The reception was outstanding and the fans truly helped me raise my game to that next level.
“I know I'll need their support again in February, as Siver is a very capable and dangerous opponent. He will bring a few different things to this fight and he's probably the best striker I've faced to date. I know exactly what I need to do to overcome him and, with the backing of the Australian fans, I can't wait to go out there and put on a show.”
Born in Omsk, Russia, but fighting out of Mannheim, Germany, hard-hitting Dennis Siver (17-7) is renowned for his striking, spinning back-kicks and knack of winning. The gifted German has won six of his last seven UFC bouts and bettered Spencer Fisher, Paul Kelly and Andre Winner in the process. With two Knockout of the Night bonuses to his name, and one for Submission of the Night, Siver remains one of the more well-rounded members of the lightweight pack, though he specialises in an array of dazzling kicks and punches.
Siver said: “George is a very capable and tough fighter that is very dangerous to me on the ground. I really like and respect George, after having spent a lot of time with him in Las Vegas. I can't wait to fight in Australia because I've always wanted to see the country. Obviously, the time zone difference is going to be difficult to deal with, so I'll have to prepare extra hard to leave a good impression."
A frequent recipient of Fight of the Night bonuses, Indiana’s Chris 'Lights Out' Lytle (40-17-4) can end a fight with a punch or a submission, depending on where the mood takes him. Well-rounded and always entertaining, Lytle is unquestionably one of the welterweight division's biggest fan favourites. The 36-year-old is a veteran of over 60 professional fights – and has never been submitted or knocked out - and currently boasts four straight victories inside the Octagon. He recently submitted both Matt Brown and Brian Foster, before impressively out-striking and conquering Matt Serra in September.
“I’m looking forward to another great war,” Lytle said. “This is a great match and can’t see any other fight getting ‘Fight of the Night’.”
Ten years Lytle's junior, Carlos Condit (26-5) is no less experienced and exciting. The Albuquerque, New Mexico native scored Octagon wins over Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger, before dramatically knocking out former UFC title challenger Dan Hardy inside one round on the English puncher’s own territory. Buoyed by his one-punch knockout of the Brit hope in October, Condit now looks to further climb the welterweight ladder en route to a potential title shot.
Condit said: “Knocking out Dan Hardy in one round kind of woke people back up to the idea I am a top welterweight. I’m chasing the title, and I think it took the Hardy KO to remind people of what I am all about. Lytle is a great fighter, he’s on a great run, but I am going to Australia with a ton of momentum and am looking for another KO bonus.”
New South Wales southpaw Kyle Noke (18-4-1) flew the flag for Australia on Season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter and now represents his nation in the stacked middleweight division. Since leaving the TUF® house, 30-year-old Noke has impressively defeated Josh Bryant and Rob Kimmons and now returns to Australia a hero.
Noke says it is a dream come true to fight on a huge show in his native New South Wales: “I would have done anything to fight on this card. When UFC 110 was happening, I was filming the TUF series hoping that the UFC would be back in Sydney one day and I’d get a chance to fight on the card. To fight on the televised part of such a huge show is an honour and I am going to fight my heart out for the Aussie fans.”
Looking to spoil the home favourite's party at UFC 127 will be Chris Camozzi (14-3), a 24-year-old Californian with two straight UFC wins to his name. A fellow competitor on Season 11 of TUF, Camozzi has gone on to claim decision wins over James Hammortree and Dong Yi Yang.
A full undercard of action will support the main televised card. Local interest will be focused on Sydney based talents Jamie Te Huna, 14-4, who meets Sweden’s Alexander Gustafsson, 11-1, light heavyweight (93.2KG) and 10-6 Anthony Perosh – also fighting at light heavyweight – who matches his submission skills with those of England’s Tom Blackledge, 10-6.