UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis said he’s had a “bad run” with injuries as of late, but when he’s again healthy to fight, there are no restrictions he sees in potential opponents.
“I think anybody at 155 is something that could happen,” Pettis told MMAjunkie Radio. “They all want the belt. I know how it is to chase that dream.”
Before he submitted Henderson to capture the title at 155 pounds, Pettis’ road to the UFC belt was long and winding. It took him three years to capture it after beating Henderson a first time in the now-defunct WEC. Unfortunately, his arrival came with a setback – a knee injury that will keep him benched for up to six months.
Pettis (17-2 MMA, 4-1 UFC) said he needs a break after a year of constant training. He fought and beat Donald Cerrone and rolled into a camp for a fight with featherweight champ Jose Aldo, only to jump into preparing for Henderson when another knee injury prevented him from facing Aldo.
But Pettis also feels a duty to give every title hopeful an opportunity to fight him, as he wanted when he was striving to earn a No. 1 contender position.
The 26-year-old champ still is convinced a fight with Aldo will happen at lightweight. Aldo, who next fights Ricardo Lamas, said he wants to “steal” Pettis’ belt.
“He has a fight in front of him on Super Bowl weekend, so Aldo is going to move up,” Pettis said. “It’s still definitely a possibility. I think Dana White wants to see it, the fans want to see it, and I want to make it happen.”
Then there’s Josh Thomson, whom he was scheduled to meet at UFC on FOX 9 in December. He’s fine with rescheduling.
T.J. Grant? When the Canadian recovers from the lingering effects of a concussion, he’ll get the title fight he earned earlier this year. Gilbert Melendez? The former Strikeforce champ is on a roll and would get fans talking. Nate Diaz? There’s some backstory and a potential grudge match. Benson Henderson? He’d have to earn it, but a third fight is possible.
Even B.J. Penn?
“I think it’s going to hurt him to cut to 145,” Pettis said of the ex-champ’s impending move to featherweight opposite ex-champ Frankie Edgar. “B.J. is one of the guys that I look up to. If a fight ever did happen, it would be an honor to fight him. It’s B.J. Penn – he’s one of the best lightweights of all time. I have no problem with fighting him.”
The question now is who has dibs. Grant was widely thought to be the first in line before UFC President Dana White said he might need to fight again before getting the title shot promised him. Aldo, Thomson, Diaz and Penn are booked. Melendez is the only one with a clear schedule.
“I think the division needs some time to play out,” Pettis said. “When I was coming up for a title shot, there were so many No. 1 contenders I couldn’t get a title fight. Now, there’s really no clear No. 1 contenders.”
Pettis, though, is happy the UFC decided against putting an interim title up for grabs, as they recently did in the bantamweight and welterweight divisions.
“I don’t want any interim champ getting created,” he said. “I don’t want there to be any confusion about who’s the best in the world at 155, so my whole thing is get the surgery, move past it, and move forward.
“I’m that guy that takes fights. Everybody is talking trash on Twitter – ‘Pettis is always injured, he’s backing out of fights’ – I’ve backed out of one fight in my life, and this is the second one. It sucks to do it, but injuries happen. It’s just part of the sport. This one of those injuries that I can’t keep going on. If I could, I would fight the fight. I can’t even check a kick; I can’t even kick.”
If you’ve seen Pettis fight, you know that’s a pretty important part of his game. Although the fighter believes he’ll be able to bounce back without missing a step, he’s noticed a change in his body that’s shifted his priority toward taking better care of himself.
“I’ve never had knee injuries in my life, except for the (Jose) Aldo camp,” he said. “I never was injury prone, but the last couple of years with the shoulder surgery and the knees, I just can’t catch a break. I feel like I just need some time to rest the body.”
What hasn’t changed, however, is his attitude toward competition.
MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, MMAjunkie lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.
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