COMMENTARY | Anthony Pettis' recent suggestion that he should replace TJ Grant as the challenger to Benson Henderson's lightweight title at UFC 164 in his hometown of Milwaukee has lit the internet on fire. Some think he deserves the shot while others believe that he's crossed the line by disrespecting TJ Grant. But, as a fighter, you have to stand up and demand what you believe you deserve and Anthony Pettis did just that.
"I can be 100-percent ready to fight Benson Henderson in Milwaukee. With all due respect to TJ Grant, Milwaukee is my town and the fight with Ben is the fight everyone has wanted for years," Pettis said via statement. "If it works out, great; if not, I will get my shot very soon. But I think we all know which fight the fans want to see and the entire city of Milwaukee!"
What's wrong with that?
Well, for one, it would be rude and disrespectful to TJ Grant if he were to be stripped of the opportunity to face Benson Henderson after he rightfully earned the shot with a sound thrashing of Gray Maynard. Grant has been rolling as of late with five straight victories and was promised a title shot once he upended Maynard. With Pettis making the decision to skip his own earned title shot to move down in weight to face Jose Aldo, the door was wide open for Grant to walk through. And that's nobody's fault but Anthony Pettis. Had "Showtime" just waited, he would have been the one facing Henderson next. Instead, the Milwaukee fighter was in a hurry to fight and jumped the line of featherweight contenders to face Aldo. Now that he's injured, he wants to cut in front of Grant once healthy for a shot at the lightweight crown? Who's fault is it that he is injured? Certainly not Henderson or Grant. Unfortunately, it is his own fault for passing up on a future title shot for a crack at another champion.
Pettis' competitiveness is commendable and should be respected by any fighter. But that doesn't mean that you can bully your way into position simply because you are arguably the most talented fighter in the lightweight and featherweight divisions without a title belt around your waist.
But, then again, a Pettis vs. Henderson rematch is good business and the key word here is "business." Considering how difficult of a sell Benson Henderson has been as a dominant lightweight champion, a Pettis-Henderson rematch has far more potential to outsell a Grant-Henderson showdown. Frankly, as good as TJ Grant has been, he still remains an unknown to even the casual UFC fan. And when you pit an unknown against a fighter who has squeaked by in his three of his last four fights, you have a recipe for a PPV disaster. This isn't to discredit either Henderson or Grant, but the reality is that their fight is built for another free TV card rather than a PPV. Also, when you consider that Henderson last headlined UFC 150, which drew an estimated 190,000 PPV buys, the business has to be considered.
It is also likely that, if it were up to him, Henderson would have preferred to avenge his loss to Pettis while also having the opportunity to permanently wash the taste of "The Showtime Kick" out of his mouth. The fact that the highlight from the final WEC card is still in heavy rotation two years later has got to bother Henderson. Pettis' kick is more popular than he is and that must be troubling to the champion.
But, alas, Grant did what he had to do to earn this shot. And if Pettis is as good as he believes he is, he'll get his chance. If you want to go with what's right, Grant-Henderson at UFC 164 is the "right" thing to do. Grant was told he would get the next shot and deserves to not be shoved out of the way because Pettis can't fight Aldo. But this is the UFC we are talking about and we all know how many title fights have been promised only to be taken away in the name of good business. It will be interesting to see how this plays out but given the fact that Dana White doesn't think Pettis will be fully recovered from his injury, TJ Grant shouldn't have anything to worry about.
Andreas Hale is a former editor at websites including BET.com and HipHopDX.com. Today, he resides in the fight capital of the world and has covered boxing and MMA for mainstream media outlets such as MTV.com and Jay-Z's LifeandTimes.com, as well as die-hard outlets including FightNews.com, Fight! Magazine, Ultimate MMA, CagePotato.com and others. You can follow him on Twitter (@AndreasHale).
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