UFC legend Anthony Pettis enjoyed a stellar run inside the UFC’s Octagon, but the 33-year-old former UFC lightweight champion decided to depart from the company after defeating Alex Morono last month. Now, Pettis is headed to the Professional Fighters League (PFL), but “Showtime” revealed to Heavy his biggest UFC regret was missing out on facing Conor McGregor.
“I definitely always wanted to fight Conor McGregor,” Pettis told Heavy. “We were so close…around the same weight classes… It was very close to happening.”
In 2019, Pettis seemed to be on his way to nabbing that McGregor bout only to see it fall through at the last moment. Instead, “Showtime” was matched up against Nate Diaz.
“First it was McGregor, and I was like, ‘Let’s do it in Madison Square Garden,’” Pettis told MMA Junkie. “Something fell off with that and then it popped up Nate…”
Pettis admitted he’ll always wonder how that fight might have gone down.
“That was one of the fights I always wanted,” Pettis said.
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Pettis: ‘Leaving the UFC Is a Huge Risk’
Pettis said deciding to depart the UFC for the PFL was something that showed his growth over recent years.
In fact, Pettis believes the old version of himself would have been so enamored with the idea of maybe getting the McGregor fight that he would have signed his UFC contract offer without giving it any serious thought.
“I think…before I had the ability to make decisions without all these feelings attached to it, I would have signed that UFC contract two fights ago,” Pettis said.
“But sitting down, pulling myself back asking, is that the smartest route for my career?” Pettis said.
The answer to that was no, and knowing that and following his head and heart over his feelings was the new way Pettis was deciding to live his life. Ultimately, that new methodology is what led the fighter to choose the PFL over all his other offers.
“I’m definitely taking a risk. Leaving the UFC is a huge risk, but it’s something I’m ready to do,” Pettis said.
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‘Showtime’ Picks UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor 2
Regret or not, Pettis was happy to discuss the upcoming rematch between McGregor and Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 on January 23.
McGregor stopped Poirier in less than two minutes in a featherweight bout back in 2014, and now the two fighters are locking horns again as top lightweights.
Pettis believes McGregor’s dominant win over Poirier the first time around will give him a big boost at UFC 257.
“Rematching somebody, when you beat them, you have this confidence,” Pettis said.
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That’s something the fighter would know. Pettis reminded Heavy he was undefeated in his rematches.
“But saying that, Dustin Poirier is a way different fighter [now]. I think he let Conor get into his head that first fight. He came out aggressive and with some ill will. Poirier needs to slow it down, make it a grueling match, get him in that deep water…like when I fought him. He put me in some deep water where it…felt uncomfortable,” Pettis said.
Poirier defeated Pettis via third-round submission back in 2013. Pettis said Poirier’s gameplan that night was something that constantly kept feeling like he was swimming against the current. “Showtime” believes “The Diamond” could pull off something similar at UFC 257.
“He needs to do that to McGregor,” Pettis said.
Pettis laid out how that might work at UFC 257.
“If Dustin can calm down, attack this fight slowly and smart, I think he’ll have a way different result,” Pettis said.
Still, Pettis wouldn’t pick the upset.
“If I had to pick, I’d say McGregor but…Dustin is going to bring a different fight. It won’t be a quick knockout.”
Pettis will be watching UFC 257 at home with the rest of the world but is excited to get back to work for the upcoming 2021 season for PFL. “Showtime” will compete in the lightweight division where he’ll look to cement his legacy by grabbing another world championship.
Pettis is already a former UFC and WEC champ. Now he wants the PFL belt, too.
“I’m ready to get that third belt!” Pettis said.
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