Anthony Pettis was supposed to open August fighting Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight title. Instead, after two injuries, Pettis will instead close the month rematching Benson Henderson at UFC 164 on Aug. 31 in Milwaukee for the UFC lightweight belt.
Pettis defeated Henderson in the final event in World Extreme Cagefighting history, lifting that organization's belt from Henderson by pulling off the now-legendary "Showtime kick" in the waning moments of a close fight. Pettis leaped up against the cage, pushed off and blasted a surprise Henderson in the head with a kick.
That move, one of the most spectacular in modern mixed martial arts history, lifted Pettis to the WEC title.
Henderson later went on to win the UFC lightweight belt and was supposed to defend it against T.J. Grant at UFC 164. But, according to UFC president Dana White, Grant suffered an injury and had to withdraw.
Grant tweeted that he suffered a concussion while practicing jiu-jitsu and had to withdraw. He also tweeted that it was not a conspiracy by the UFC to get Pettis onto the card.
But that opened the door for the Henderson-Pettis rematch. Pettis had injured a knee that forced him to pull out of his planned Aug. 3 featherweight title fight with Aldo in Brazil. He was replaced on that card by "The Korean Zombie," Chan Sung Jung.
MMA Junkie first reported Grant's injury and the coach of Pettis as his replacement.
Pettis coach Duke Roufus said Pettis' knee "is feeling great after rehab."
White was ecstatic to be able to make the bout and said he thinks the UFC is set up for a memorable finish to 2013.
"If all of these fights we have set hold up and no one else gets hurt, this is going to be the baddest string of fights we've ever done in a six-month period," White said. "Without question, this will be the best second-half of a year in UFC history."
White noted that the string began last week with Chris Weidman's stunning upset win over middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 162 in Las Vegas.
The rest of the 2013 pay-per-view schedule, according to White, is:
• Aug. 3, UFC 163 in Rio de Janeiro, Aldo vs. "The Korean Zombie" for the featherweight title.
• Aug. 31, UFC 164 in Milwaukee, Henderson vs. Pettis II for the UFC lightweight title.
• Sept. 21, UFC 165 in Toronto, Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson for the UFC light heavyweight title.
• Oct. 19, UFC 166 in Houston, Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos III for the UFC heavyweight title.
• Nov. 16, UFC 167 in Las Vegas, Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks for the UFC welterweight title.
• Dec. 28, UFC 168 in Las Vegas, Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate II for the UFC women's bantamweight title.
White spent much of his day Friday in Los Angeles negotiating with Silva about a rematch with Weidman that he hopes to put on UFC 168. Silva has commitments to sponsors he's already made, though, that may make it impossible for him to fight as soon as December.
"We'd love to have him on that New Year's Eve card in Vegas," White said. "That would be sick. We're working on that, but all that stuff Anderson has going on is why the Super Bowl card is still a possibility."
Pettis could be reached for comment on Friday, but Roufus was with Pettis when he was offered the fight with Henderson. He was thrilled, not only for the title opportunity but for the chance to do it in Milwaukee, his hometown.
"Anthony and I received the news together here," Roufus said. "He can't wait to get the UFC championship. Ben is a great fighter, but Anthony is a special fighter who will beat Ben again."
White said one of the reasons he likes Pettis so much is that he is willing to fight anyone at any time. He said Pettis had no concern about having started to get ready to fight at featherweight and then having to go up and fight at lightweight.
Pettis, he said, just loves to compete in big fights.
"What I love about this guy is he doesn't give a [expletive] about stupid [expletive] like whether it's at 145 or 155 or where it is or when it is or any of that," White said. "He has the attitude, 'I'm the best. I'm going to win. I don't care when or where. Let's do it.' Those are the kind of guys I love."
White also said he is in talks to re-sign heavyweight Roy Nelson, whose contract expired in June after a loss to Stipe Miocic at UFC 161 in Winnipeg. White said if he re-signs Nelson in time, he plans to pair him with Daniel Cormier at UFC 166 on the Velasquez-dos Santos III undercard.
Nelson and Cormier have had a feud on social media and have been eager to fight. Cormier is also Velasquez's training partner, close friend and wrestling coach.