Anthony Pettis was originally supposed to fight for the UFC lightweight title sometime in the early portion of 2011. But then-champion Frankie Edgar fought to a draw with Gray Maynard, a rematch was ordered and instead of sitting on the sidelines, Pettis opted to take a fight in the interim against Clay Guida.
Until last week, if you'd have asked Pettis about his decision-making, he would have told you that he should have waited for the title shot in 2011.
Pettis just laughs at the question now; it's a no-brainer. Instead of fighting the Edgar-Maynard winner at who-knows-where, Pettis is now going to challenge for the title in his hometown, Milwaukee, at UFC 164 on Aug. 31 against Benson Henderson, a man he's already beaten.
"If you would have asked me that question before this fight [with Henderson] was announced, I would have told you that I should have waited and taken the title shot back then," Pettis said. "But the way this thing played out, it was all for a reason. Maybe I wasn't ready back then. I don't know. I know I've gotten a lot better, and now my dream is six weeks away."
Pettis was supposed to fight Jose Aldo in Brazil on Aug. 3 for the featherweight belt. He famously earned that match in February when he texted UFC president Dana White and asked to fight Aldo after Aldo had just beaten Edgar.
All along, Pettis would have preferred to have fought for the lightweight belt, but despite his success, it appeared a championship bout was still nine months to a year off at that point. So he texted White to ask for Aldo in the kind of move White loves.
White said yes and that fight was made.
But while he was in Brazil for a news conference to promote the show, Pettis injured his right knee while working out. He heard something pop while he was rolling with UFC light heavyweight contender Phil Davis -- "I was going to be fighting at featherweight, so I needed to get the sweat in," Pettis said -- and learned later that he injured the lateral collateral ligament in his knee.
He didn't want to postpone the fight, despite the six-to-eight-week time-off prognosis, and took Platelet Rich Plasma therapy in an attempt to speed up the process. He pleaded with the UFC not to make a change, but his pleas fell on deaf ears and he was replaced by Chan "The Korean Zombie" Sung Jung.
"I fought with dislocated shoulders before, and messed up hands, and I wanted to go through with it," Pettis said. "But Dana White and them, they didn't want to take a chance that I wouldn't be able to go and have to pull out a lot closer to the fight, so they pulled me out."
He was back training about a month or so after the injury, the PRP having helped cut the recovery time back significantly. But he sat on the sidelines with no fight until T.J. Grant's bad fortune turned out to be his big break. Grant pulled out of his bout with Henderson after suffering a concussion during jiu-jitsu practice.
Pettis was healthy and available to go and, with the fight in his hometown, he couldn't have asked for more.
He's also excited because it's been a while since fans have had the opportunity to see him in the cage for any significant length of time. He beat Joe Lauzon in 1:21 at UFC 144 and stopped Donald Cerrone in 2:35 at UFC on Fox 6.
"I have worked so hard and I'm so much better than I was when I met Benson [for the WEC title in 2010]," Pettis said. "I'm not even close to the same fighter I was then, but I've only been in there a total of three, four minutes over the last year, year-and-a-half and people haven't seen it.
"This is going to be my chance to show that. Believe me when I tell you, I can't wait for this one."
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