"Let's face it, the reality is B.J. Penn has held titles in both weight classes," White said on the UFC 127 media call. "Fitch has fought for the title and has literally dominated that division for a long time, just didn't win the title. Any one of these guys that wins this fight is in the mix -- the No. 1 guy."
Penn (16-7-1) returned to welterweight last November and scored a 21-second knockout over Matt Hughes. Although it was only Penn's second welterweight win in the UFC since taking the title in 2004, his overall credentials have always left him position for the title.
"B.J. is dangerous in any weight class," Fitch said. "He has a certain type of skill set that if you make a mistake, he'll capitalize and put you away and that transfers into any weight class. At welterweight I have certain advantages with size, but it's not going to be enough. I've had to work a lot on speed and explosiveness and keeping everything tight so there are no mistakes in the fight."
The belt will next be in contention at UFC 129 on April 30 in Toronto when champion Georges St-Pierre makes his sixth straight title defense in a bout against former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields. The winner of Penn vs. Fitch will have to see how UFC 129 plays out. White has also recently talked about a St-Pierre vs. Anderson Silva superfight if St-Pierre were to emerge victorious against Shields.
Fitch last challenged for the title against St-Pierre at UFC 87 on August 2008 and has won all five bouts since the loss. In fact, Fitch's only loss in the last eight years was against St-Pierre, but Fitch says his mind isn't on St-Pierre or title shots at this point.
"I don't really want to waste any time thinking about anything other than B.J. right now," Fitch said. "He's such a dangerous opponent and he's been around for so long and if I don't give him full attention and full focus, that would be a huge mistake."
Penn also declined to comment on if this could be his last run at a title.
"I'm not thinking about titles," Penn said. "I'm just happy to fight an opponent of Jon Fitch's level and Jon Fitch's stature."