If not for Georges St. Pierre, either Jon Fitch or BJ Penn very well could hold the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title.
Each of the contenders has had a shot at the champion during his current reign, but neither put much of a scare into St. Pierre.
A one-sided decision loss to St. Pierre in 2008 was Fitch's only loss in his past 22 fights.
Penn once held the welterweight title, but that was before St. Pierre was around. He has had two shots at the long-reigning champion, a split decision loss in a No. 1 contender bout in 2006 and a more lopsided technical knockout defeat for the belt in 2009.
With talk of St. Pierre abandoning the belt to move to middleweight should he successfully defend the title against Jake Shields in April, tonight's No. 1 contender bout between Penn and Fitch in the main event of UFC 127 in Sydney has taken on even more significance.
Neither Penn nor Fitch is ready to discuss the possibility of taking over the title just yet.
"As of now, I'm not even thinking about that. 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."
Fitch had a similar answer.
"I don't really want to waste any time thinking about anything other than fighting BJ right now. He's just a dangerous opponent, and he's been around for so long," Fitch said. "If I don't give him full attention and full focus, that would be a huge mistake."
Exactly what opportunity Penn and Fitch are battling for isn't completely clear, especially if the title is abandoned, but UFC president Dana White has said the winner will get a title shot.
A second chance at the belt might be overdue for Fitch. Since losing to St. Pierre, he has won five straight fights.
The former Purdue wrestler isn't the most exciting fighter in the sport, but he is one of the most successful. All of his past eight bouts have gone to a decision, with the only loss coming to St. Pierre.
Fitch has racked up a 13-1 record in the organization. Nine of those wins have come by decision, which, combined with how overmatched he looked against St. Pierre, probably is the reason he has yet to get another shot.
Penn has had plenty of chances in multiple weight classes. He spent much of the past few years as the lightweight champion after dropping from welterweight in 2007. Penn went back to welterweight for a title shot against St. Pierre in 2009 but dropped back down after the loss.
Penn again returned to welterweight and knocked out Matt Hughes in 21 seconds in November. He said he feels much better at 170 pounds instead of cutting down to 155, though he didn't rule out a return to lightweight.
"If someone said, 'Let's meet tomorrow at (noon) to fight somewhere,' you know, and your family honor is on the line, the first thing I wouldn't do is stop drinking water and stop eating," he said. "I don't see how that can help you and make you the stronger person."
Penn turned to Hughes, his most recent conquest, to help him train for the strength and wrestling of Fitch. He had Hughes fly out to Hawaii to simulate some of what Fitch does so effectively.
"I know he isn't exactly like Fitch as far as height and boxing and kick boxing goes," Penn said. "But on the one area where Fitch definitely pushes all his opponents, his grinding them out and pushing them on the fence and taking them down, Matt really pushed me in those areas."
He will put that work to the test in the main event of the pay-per-view broadcast, which airs live at 7 p.m.
The main card also features a middleweight clash between Michael Bisping and Jorge Rivera, who has done his best to get under Bisping's skin with a series of trash-talking videos on the Internet.
Australia native George Sotiropoulos will try to get one step closer to a lightweight title fight when he meets Dennis Siver.
Also, Brian Ebersole steps in for an injured Carlos Condit to make his UFC debut against Chris Lytle, and Australian Kyle Noke will meet Chris Camozzi.
Three preliminary fights will air live on Ion (Cable 51) at 6 p.m. Two fights will air live on the UFC's Facebook page at 5.
The card will take place Sunday afternoon in Australia to air in the UFC's normal Saturday night broadcast slot.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509.