eIt’s almost “Showtime” for Anthony Pettis and the rest of the competition headed to Atlantic City next month, and the MMA superstar is feeling a mixture of emotions heading into his Professional Fighters League (PFL) debut against Clay Collard on April 23.
“It makes me a little nervous, you know? A lot of fights, a quick turnaround, anything can happen in there,” Pettis told Heavy.
Pettis, 34, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a former UFC lightweight champion who bet big on himself after letting his UFC contract expire last year. Now, the 2-time MMA world champion is facing a situation he’s never experienced before as a professional prizefighter: the PFL’s season-long format and playoff structure.
It’s something the fighter called “fun and interesting”, and it’s also something he’ll have plenty of time to think about while inside the PFL’s bubble in New Jersey.
You can watch Pettis talk about all those things and much more in our video interview below.
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Pettis on PFL’s Bubble: ‘I Love That’
The PFL’s 2021 regular season will be held in a “state-of-the-art” bubble environment at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Fighters will enter the bubble 17 days prior to their scheduled bouts, and daily COVID tests will occur as well as various other protocols and procedures designed by health and safety officials.
The health, safety, and well-being of PFL fighters and staff, as well as the integrity of its product, are the paramount concerns of the league, so the company is pulling out all the stops for its 2021 season.
“The plan they have behind it is efficient. It’s something that’s necessary, especially right now. You know if one of us gets sick, or anybody on the card gets sick, the whole format could possibly be in jeopardy,” Pettis said.
PFL rescheduled its 2020 season due to the global pandemic, but now it’s getting right back to action.
Pettis is excited to be living in the PFL’s bubble for 17 days, and he believes the company is making the right move by setting up the bubble.
“I think they’re definitely approaching it right. They’re putting the resources together to make sure that we’re protected as professional athletes, and I love that,” Pettis said.
PFL's Bubble is fancy tho. 👀 pic.twitter.com/lnK6X1OJAz
— Kelsey McCarson (@kelsey_mccarson) March 16, 2021
Of course, being a citizen of the PFL’s brand-new regular season bubble society is yet another experience Pettis has never had before. Heck, nobody has, so the fighter said he’s looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.
But don’t think for one moment that his open-mindedness about the situation means he lacks a plan. On the contrary, Pettis said he expects to make the most of his time in the bubble. He’ll have his coaches there with him, his nutritionist, and a sparring partner, and everyone will be focused on the same goal: winning.
“I like being in that mindset, being isolated, (where) the only focus is the fight,” Pettis said.
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PFL’s Regular Season Begins on April 23
Pettis vs. Collard will headline the start of the new PFL season. The action takes place live on ESPN2 and ESPN+ on April 23 with Pettis vs. Collard serving as the main event for the PFL’s first stacked fight card of 2021.
The remainder of the PFL’s regular season is scheduled for April 29, May 6, June 10, June 17 and June 25.
Pettis is excited about getting to participate in the PFL’s season-style format. For one thing, instead of having to stay ready for fights that could show up in his life at literally a moment’s notice, Pettis will experience for the first time in his career the comfort of knowing exactly when he’s scheduled to fight months in advance.
“It felt good to be relaxed and not worrying about a fight springing up on me…I enjoyed my time off with my family,” Pettis said.
PFL is everything you love about college basketball’s March Madness rolled into the combat sports world. Like the rest of the PFL’s stacked lineup of established stars and rising phenoms, Pettis will compete in regular-season contests where he hopes to earn a berth in the 2021 playoffs. There, the top four fighters in each of the PFL’s divisions square off in an old-school MMA tournament designed to crown the 2021 world champion.
“The objective is to get in and get out and don’t get hurt so you can get ready for the next one. It’s fun. It makes it fun,” Pettis said.
Mark your calendars for the March Madness of MMA (except it's not in March, and there's no basketball or teams). 👊 pic.twitter.com/qnmQot3BYA
— Kelsey McCarson (@kelsey_mccarson) March 16, 2021
Pettis has won world titles for World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and the UFC, now he’ll hope to usurp two-time PFL lightweight champion Natan Schulte as the top dog in the PFL’s 155-pound division.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim, Pettis and Schulte will enter the season as the divisional favorites.
Regardless, Pettis said he wasn’t exactly looking ahead to any future showdowns just yet. Actually, Pettis said he wasn’t all that concerned about his second regular-season fight, which he expects to happen in June.
“I’m gonna take it one fight at a time. Getting caught up with the whole division, worrying about who’s next and what, it’s too much to worry about,” Pettis said.
Pettis isn’t taking any of the potential competition lightly.
“Anybody has a chance, man. It’s a crazy sport. I’ve been in there with the biggest names in a lot of different weight classes, it just depends on a lot of different things. Not just skill, a lot of things go into this,” Pettis said.
It’s why he’s excited about having 17 days in the PFL’s bubble to just eat, breathe and train, it’s why some pundits expect the fighter to claim PFL gold later this year.
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