Unpredictable striker ready to embark on new journey in UFC
Six months ago, Anthony Pettis burst into the MMA mainstream by running up the cage wall and landing a move that has come to be known as “The Showtime Kick.”
A minute later, he was crowned the final lightweight champion in WEC history, earning the chance to make his UFC debut in a 155 pound title unification fight against whoever emerged from UFC 125 with the belt around their waist.
While the fight was outstanding, and remains the frontrunner for Fight of the Year to this point, it left the lightweight division on hold, and Pettis unsure of what became of his title shot.
“My initial reaction was `What happens to me?’ I didn’t know what happened; I’d never been in that position before. I knew it was bad, but after it all cleared out and I came out with the option of fighting somebody, I knew I would take the fight. There was no chance I was going to stay on the sidelines after I had built up my momentum from the last year of the WEC.”
Not only did the decision to choose a fight come quickly to Pettis once the dust cleared, but so too did who he wanted as his opponent.
“They were like, `Hey man, it sucks to be in this position, but you can either wait or fight somebody. Just let us know who you’re interested in.’ The same night that I was at where they had the draw, Clay Guida had a great performance against Gomi, and I was like `That’s the guy I want to fight.’ He’s one of those guys that has been around a long time, he’s definitely not an easy opponent, and I think it’s a good test for me in my UFC debut.”
For a few days two weeks ago, it looked as if Pettis would be getting a new dance partner for his debut.
When Edgar was forced to withdraw from his trilogy bout with Maynard at UFC 130, Pettis was offered the chance to step in for the UFC lightweight champion, and accepted without hesitation. While Maynard would later pull out of the bout with his own injury issues, Pettis’ willingness to step in on short notice should be a warning to the rest of the division.
Thanks to his hard work with Duke Roufus and his unwavering belief in himself, Pettis is ready to take on all comers and prove he belongs among the elite in the UFC’s most talented division, even on short notice.
“It comes from training camp. I bust my ass in the gym. I train real hard. For me to put anybody above myself or think that somebody can beat me is not an option. I feel that I can beat anybody and I train like I can, so that’s where it comes from.
“For me to be in this position where I’m at, I’m just going to take advantage of it, man. Whether they think I deserve a tile shot or don’t, and whether I get a title shot or I don’t, I really don’t care. I’m just going to keep fighting.”
He’ll start by facing Guida this Saturday in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale.
The energetic and beloved Guida has been on a roll since he started working with Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn and the rest of the all-star assembled in New Mexico. While he’s shown improvements over his last few fights, Pettis feels he holds the advantage no matter where the fight takes place.
“I feel I’m better than him everywhere. My striking is better than his, my wrestling has improved so much. I mean, his wrestling is good, but it’s not very technical; it’s just aggression. He gets in there and makes you push it, so for me, I’m just going to try to outclass him everywhere. My striking is definitely better than his, my jiu jitsu is better than his; I’m dangerous anywhere.”
Pettis has “The Jon Jones Factor” on his side as well. Like the light heavyweight champion, Pettis is a nightmare to plan against, as his dynamic offensive arsenal is varied and well-rounded. The 24-year-old says that element of surprise only bolsters his confident heading into Saturday’s fight.
“He doesn’t know what to expect. I could take him down, I could jump kick him, I could kick him off the fence, I could throw my hands at him; it’s hard to prepare for that. For him, I know what he’s going to do. He’s going to throw a big right hand followed by a left hook into a takedown, or a left hook, right hand, takedown.”
You would think that facing a fan favorite like Guida in the main event for your UFC debut would cause Pettis to put additional pressure on himself heading into this fight, but that is not the case. In fact, according to Pettis, it’s just the opposite.
“You could make any fight have added pressure to it. The last fight I had, there is no more added pressure than that; a guy’s hometown, a WEC title, a chance for a UFC title shot, there is no bigger pressure than that, and I think I performed very well.
“I handle pressure very well, so it’s just about going out there and doing what I do best, getting out there and having fun. If I go out there and have fun and I let loose like I did in the last couple rounds of my last fight, no one is stopping me.”
Last time he set foot in the cage to have fun, Pettis ran up the wall and landed one of the most memorable and creative moves in the sport’s history.
While there is no way of predicting what he’ll do for an encore, one thing is for certain: if he defeats Guida on Saturday night as planned, Pettis will be ready and willing to face whoever the UFC decides to throw at him next.