Just three short years ago, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, won the UFC lightweight title in his hometown of Milwaukee, WI, beating then champion Benson Henderson in the first round. “That was a pretty big highlight moment in my career,” said Pettis. “But I have more times like that coming.” And after being injured in that fight and plagued with even more injuries, sidelining him for almost 16 months, would go on to defend that title at the end of 2014, only to lose it just three months later in devastating fashion at UFC 185 to Rafael dos Anjos. That would be the first of three loses in a row for Pettis in the lightweight division.
On Saturday night, in the co-main event of UFC on Fox: Maia vs Condit, Pettis will drop down and make his debut in the featherweight division taking on #6 ranked, Charles Oliveira. “145 was always an option,” explained Pettis. “I was supposed to fight Jose Aldo before Henderson, but he pulled out.”
Being at the top of his division to going 0-3 in his last three fights usually marks the beginning of the end for some fighters, but Pettis, surrounded by his long time teammates at Roufusport Academy and joining one of the best teams in the nation, Team Jackson in Albuquerque, New Mexico looks at where he is now as a fresh start, not a rise back to the top. “It was a frustrating time in my career,” said Pettis. “Coming off three losses, you have to be mentally strong. I just had to keep pushing to figure things out and I think I’ve done that.”
Often being criticized for needing to work on his ground game, even though that was how he won the title from Henderson at UFC 164 and facing a fighter like Oliviera, who has won his last six out of ten fights by submission, never let that notion get into his head. “After the first two losses, you kind of listen to that,” said Pettis. “But after thinking about it more, I don’t need to work on anything. I just need to keep getting better. I can’t just focus on one aspect of my game.”
So, as Pettis makes his way to the cage on Saturday night, he will look to cement his name in a new division and work his way to the top again. “I’ve got the style that people like to watch,” said Pettis. “I can’t go out there and play fight. I’ve got to touch his face and impose my will.”
Anthony Pettis will face Charles Oliveira in the co-main event of UFC on Fox, Saturday, August 27th, LIVE on Fox, 8pm ET/5pm PT.