When the call came for Anthony Pettis to step up and fight Benson Henderson for the UFC Lightweight title at UFC 164 in his own backyard of Milwaukee, WI, there was no way the top contender of the division could turn down the opportunity.
A whirlwind of events saw UFC Lightweight Anthony Pettis (16-2) go from vying to clash with UFC Featherweight Champion José Aldo at UFC 163 for the belt, to an injury that forced him out of the August 3rd bout in Brazil.
Then news came that TJ Grant, who was initially set to challenge Benson Henderson (19-2) for the UFC Lightweight strap, had suffered a concussion and didn’t think he’d be ready in time to fight for the title on August 31. Grant withdrew from the contest leaving Henderson without an opponent.
As it turns out, Pettis’ LCL injury has already healed up. He says he feels fully recovered and is able to go all out in training with his knee. “Showtime” is now on tap to square off against Benson in a championship fight for the second time in the MMA careers at UFC 164.
In the fifth round of action the Duke Roufus trained fighter, whose experience and skills derive from his Tae Kwon Do and kickboxing background, delivered the kick heard around the world. Though Pettis wasn’t able to finish the fight with the highlight reel move, it was flashy enough to become known as the “Showtime Kick”. The fight went the distance and Pettis earned the decision in his favor, handing Henderson only the second loss of his career and leaving the WEC as the lightweight champion.
Since Pettis found the formula to defeat Henderson once, perhaps he’s managed to capture lightning in a bottle, which is something that others who have fought Benson before him have been unable to do. However, Pettis doesn’t feel that his win over Benson gives him an edge.
“When I first fought him I was young. I was only 23-years-old and now I’m 26 and we’ve both matured as fighters and as people, so you can’t really say I have an advantage. He’s the champ and I’m sure he’s used to the pressure so, I don’t see that being an advantage. I mean, it’s definitely there, but I wouldn’t say it’s an advantage,” said Pettis.
With the rematch just weeks away at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Pettis has gold within his reach once again. In the time Pettis has spent working his way back up to a title shot, Henderson has successfully defended his title three times. Still, the champ has yet to finish a fight inside the Octagon. Part of Pettis’ plan is to keep the pressure coming and impose his will come August 31.
“You see a lot of champions becoming point fighters,” Pettis said. “These guys want to keep their belts and there’s two sides of that story. Every challenger is very talented. Look at the lightweight division, everybody there is very well matched. It’s going to take a factor to change that to have somebody dominate these fights. That’s what I’m looking to do. All I can do is go in there and implement my game plan and hope for the best.”
“I want be the guy that goes out there and gives the fans a show. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day,” Pettis told MMA Fight Corner. “You’ve got so many fight fans and so many fighters, but I like to be that guy that fight fans want to watch because they don’t know what’s going to happen. I strive to be that different fighter and set myself apart from the group.”