LAS VEGAS – Anthony Pettis passed on a shot at the UFC lightweight title before and it turned out disastrous for him.
He may be on the verge of doing it again, but this time, his idea to pass up a lightweight title shot could result in the most significant fight in UFC featherweight history.
As champion Jose Aldo broke down his unanimous decision victory over Frankie Edgar on Saturday in their title bout at UFC 156 before 10,275 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Pettis fired off a quick text message to UFC president Dana White. It read, "I want to go to featherweight to fight Jose Aldo."
It was an extraordinary moment – a young superstar being challenged by a superstar-in-waiting in a match that would pit two of the fastest and most athletic fighters in the UFC against one another.
White said following the news conference that he had yet to respond to Pettis, but social media was abuzz about the possibilities of the fight just seconds after White tossed it out.
The possibility came only moments after a Fight of the Night scrap that clearly painted Aldo as one of the world's four elite fighters.
For the last couple of years, the UFC has had a Big Three of middleweight champion Anderson Silva, light heavyweight champion Jonny "Bones" Jones and welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. It's time, though, to change that to a Big Four.
[More UFC 156: Frankie Edgar loses yet another title fight via close decision]
Aldo belongs shoulder-to-shoulder with that group, as he proved in besting Edgar. Judges Adalaide Byrd and Junichiro Kamijo had it 49-46 for Aldo, while Jeff Collins had it 48-47 for Aldo. Yahoo! Sports scored it 48-47 for Aldo.
Edgar is an elite talent himself who is as scrappy and hard-nosed as they come. But though the fight was competitive, their faces clearly told the story of their bout.
Aldo looked like he hadn't even fought, but Edgar's face was bruised and swollen and his left eye was open just a sliver.
Aldo was dominant in the first two rounds, using his speed and quickness to take Edgar apart. He was pinpoint with his jab, cracking Edgar repeatedly with it, and was chopping him down with leg kicks.
Aldo went away from the kicks in the second half of the fight, and that's when Edgar mounted a rally to make it close and create some drama.
"The plan was to kick him and keep him from moving," Aldo said. "I started to see he was checking my kicks and going for the takedown when I kicked, so I used my hands a little bit more."
That brought Edgar back into the fight. He won the fourth round on all three judges' cards and an argument could have been made that he won the third and the fifth, too.
He fought gallantly, pushing Aldo to limits he hadn't been pushed before, but in the end, all that Edgar had to show for it was his third consecutive loss.
His old bugaboo of not coming out quickly cost him dearly. He wasn't of a mind to speak too much, but he knows that's an issue that he must solve when he's facing the world's best.
"I guess that's something that we're going to have to figure out soon," Edgar said glumly.
Aldo's blazing speed, punching accuracy and takedown defense were a difficult combination for Edgar. No fighter is more game, but when he wasn't able to get Aldo off his feet much, it was obvious he was in trouble.
And now, the fight will lead Aldo to even bigger and better things. Though there wasn't a massive crowd Saturday, the fans were definitely into the fight and early indications are that the pay-per-view performed well, drawing in excess of 400,000.
That would be a solid number for a card headed by a featherweight, and could be an indication that the public beyond Aldo's native Brazil is finally accepting him as an elite fighter.
Aldo has now reeled off 15 consecutive wins, beating quality opponents such as Edgar, Chad Mendes, Kenny Florian, Mark Hominick, Urijah Faber and Mike Brown, among many others.
He's clearly cleaned out the division, though guys such as Dustin Poirier and Ricardo Lamas are lurking near the top, and Aldo could potentially make the move up to lightweight.
But with Pettis seemingly willing to eschew his guaranteed shot at the winner of the April 20 lightweight title fight between Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez, there may be plenty of reason, as well as dollars, in Aldo remaining at featherweight for the time being.
Pettis won the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight title in 2010 and was guaranteed a shot at the UFC lightweight belt, then held by Edgar. But when Edgar drew with Gray Maynard a few weeks later and a third fight between them became necessary, Pettis opted not to wait and took a fight with Clay Guida.
Guida used his wrestling to grind out a win over Pettis in a fight that Pettis said, "Taught me a lot of lessons I needed to learn."
After fighting his way back up, Pettis whipped Cerrone before a national television audience with a perfect kick to the liver. He could sit aside and wait for the Henderson-Melendez winner in what would be a big fight, but that's simply not his style.
Like so many others, Pettis sees the greatness in Aldo and is drawn to it.
For his part, Aldo was OK with it.
"It's an interesting fight," is all he would allow, though he added, "I want to fight the best fighters in the world."
Pettis certainly qualifies on that front, and he's one of its most exciting and athletic fighters, as well.
If White pulls it off, Pettis' text message may go down as the most significant in UFC history.
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