UFC lightweight contender Anthony Pettis admits the gamble didn't pay off. After matriculating from the WEC to the UFC, Pettis was faced with a choice: wait for an extended period of time off for a title shot or stay active by facing perennial top UFC lightweight Clay Guida. Given his youth and desire to stay active Pettis chose to face Guida. That decision - a gamble, really - ultimately resulted in not just a loss, but a reshuffling of contender hierarchy. Where once Pettis was at the top, now he must climb all over again.
In this exclusive interview with Pettis on MMA Nation Radio on 106.7 The Fan, Pettis discusses the loss to Guida. While acknowledging the gamble didn't pay off, Pettis explains why this weekend's bout against Jeremy Stephens is an opportunity for redemption. The Duke Roufus-trained fighter discusses Pat Barry leaving the camp, training with Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren and why his fundamentals will allow him to beat Jeremy Stephens in every dimension of the game
Full audio and transcript below:
Luke Thomas: Joining us now on the McDonald's hotline, he takes on Jeremy Stephens on the Spike TV portion of UFC 136, which is this Saturday. His fight will kick off at 8 p.m. eastern time. The one and only Anthony "Showtime" Pettis. Anthony, how are you?
Anthony Pettis: I'm good man, how you doing?
Luke Thomas: I'm doing quite well, Anthony. It's been a long time since I've spoken with you. I spoke with you before the Clay Guida fight and I want to talk to you now after. We'll talk about your Jeremy Stephens fight here in just a moment. Did you fight in 2011 as much as you wanted to? This is your first fight all year. If you had your way, how many times would you have fought this year?
Anthony Pettis: Man, if it was my choice I'd fight six times this year.
Luke Thomas: So what happened?
Anthony Pettis: The title complications kinda put things on hold. I was forced to choose an opponent. I chose Clay Guida. That fight didn't go as planned and the next fight I had was Jeremy Stephens. We fought on the same card so it kinda matched up well for us to fight on this card.
Luke Thomas: Can you realistically fight six times a year and remain healthy?
Anthony Pettis: Probably not. I mean I fought five times last year and I was pretty tough all the way through and had a good run.
Luke Thomas: And how do you feel today? I know obviously going into this fight you're healthy, but in the course of these nine months we're in, 10 months we're in, were there any injuries that were a concern to you in that regard?
Anthony Pettis: No, man. Not at all. I had a great camp for this fight and everything just feels right on point. I just coming off a loss to Clay Guida, you're definitely really inspired and motivated to go put everything you've got into camp.
Luke Thomas: Talk to me about that Clay Guida fight. There's a lot of debate in mixed martial arts. It would be interesting to get your position on it. Some say, "Listen, Anthony Pettis was on the bottom the whole time but he was looking for submissions the whole time. He should have gotten points for that activity." The judges saw it differently. Is the guard dead in MMA?
Anthony Pettis: I feel it's not as important as takedowns as position on top. For me, not being a wrestler, the takedown is like a jab for a striker. It's setting up the next barrage of fighting. It's not like the end all. It's not like the fight's over. I was attacking off my back but I do understand how the rules work and I understand that he was in a dominant position so in the judges' eyes, he was winning the fight.
Luke Thomas: Given the opportunity to do the fight over, would you fight him the same way or would you fight him differently?
Anthony Pettis: I would fight him differently for sure, man. I wouldn't focus on submissions, I would have focused on sweeps and getting back to my feet and winning the fight where I know I could.
Luke Thomas: Alright so it's kinda confusing to me because I'm not in the camp. Talk to me about what kind of access or help or how much of a part is Ben Askren of the Duke Roufus camp? Did you get a chance to work with him for this camp or over the course of the year? Talk to me about his involvement.
Anthony Pettis: Yeah, this is his first full camp I've had with him. Ben Askren coached out in Arizona so he was kinda back and forth training. Now he's full-time in Milwaukee, he's there every day with us training so this is my first full camp with Ben Askren.
Luke Thomas: And what's it like training with him. You've trained with a lot of wrestlers I'm sure.
Anthony Pettis: He's a crazy athlete. His wrestling skill level is higher than anyone I've ever rolled with or anybody I've ever trained with. He can take you down at will, he can reverse you at will and he's got some crazy submissions.
Luke Thomas: Is he ready for the UFC? I know he's the Bellator champion but let's say he had to go to the UFC tomorrow. Is he ready?
Anthony Pettis: Yeah, man. I think he's gonna surprise a lot of people with his next fight. His striking has gotten leaps and bounds better training with us and Duke Roufus so I think hjs style is gonna be a lot more exciting and ready to go for his next fight.
Luke Thomas: One more thing about your camp before we talk about this Jeremy Stephens fight. Pat Barry left your camp and I understand it wasn't in any way acrimonious, it was all mutually agreed upon he said he needed some bigger heavyweights. Can Pat Barry get what he needs at the Death Clutch camp to stay with the UFC?
Anthony Pettis: I don't know. I've never been to the camp to see his training and how they do things out there but I think he does have some big bodies and some big names out there so I'm sure he's not having a hard time finding sparring partners. Back in Milwaukee, there was nobody for him. He's one of the big guys and we were kinda losing all our heavyweights and Pat's just had to make a career decision and that's the team he chose.
Luke Thomas: Cool, so Jeremy Stephens is the guy you're facing on Saturday. It's a hell of a fight and I'm a little surprised it hasn't gotten a little more attention because it stands to be one of the better ones on the card at least on paper. When Jeremy Stephens wins, there's a pretty consistent theme to it, he knocks guys out, he's known for his power and he's got some pretty decent speed as well. Is there a consistent way in which he loses?
Anthony Pettis: Yeah, he's submitted. He's gotten armbarred a couple times and if guys stay away from his power and pick him apart from the outside, they win decisions.
Luke Thomas: And where would you put him in the UFC lightweight division? If you had to rank him, where is he?
Anthony Pettis: Right now? He's a gatekeeper, man. He's one of those guys that's been around a long time and has been trying to make his way to the top of the division. With a win against me, that would help him out big time to get where he wants to be at.
Luke Thomas: Compare and contrast for me if you will your striking with his. Yours is a little bit more involved. I think people would note your sort of flashier style, but from a fundamental standpoint, if you're comparing fundamentals, how do your fundamentals differ from his?
Anthony Pettis: My fundamentals are high level of striking and his fundamentals are: close his eyes and clench his fists and throw for the fences. He's one of those guys, he has some decent fundamentals when he's not in his head but when he's in his head, he's throwing bombs the whole time.
Luke Thomas: So you think he can be baited into the wrong kind of fight for himself?
Anthony Pettis: Oh man, all the fights he's lost have been the same thing. He got hot-headed and throws some crazy moves. For me, I'm not gonna bait him into becoming the wrong fight. I'm just gonna go out and show that I'm better everywhere.
Luke Thomas: He had a quote, and usually I don't care about quotes because fighters will say whatever they're gonna say before a fight but let me read this to you real quickly and get your comments. He said quote, "Come October 8th, I'm going to beat the s--- out of Anthony Pettis, knock him off his pedestal, whatever the f--- he thinks he's on." Why do you believe he perceives that you believe you're on some sort of elevated ground? Why do you think he sees that heading into this fight?
Anthony Pettis: Man, I have no idea. I get that response from a couple different fighters. For me, I'm happy to be where I am right now. I had one fight in the UFC, it was a loss. I still have a huge fan base, people support me and I'm getting big fights still. I'm grateful to be where I'm at and I don't think I'm big-headed about where I'm, the positions I'm in. I've got to work to the top and that's what I'm gonna do.
Luke Thomas: So, you fought on two pay-per-view events but in both of those pay-per-view events, well you will have fought on two by this weekend. One being UFC 136 and the other being WEC 48, in both of those instance though, you fought on the Spike TV portion of the card. Do you ever want to be on the pay-per-view main card? Is that a goal?
Anthony Pettis: Yeah man for sure. I'm definitely trying to work on getting my way up to that main card. I know I can be a main card fighter. I just had the WEC belt. I kind of was on a high rise and with that Guida fight, everything went down a little bit so it's motivation for me to get to the title fight and to get onto a main card.
Luke Thomas: Talk to me about how you felt after the Guida fight. You've stayed pretty even-keeled most of the time I've talked to you. I'm sure you weren't happy about the loss. What did it do to you? Did it anger you? Did it make you sad? Talk to me about the effects it had.
Anthony Pettis: Initially man, I was pissed, knowing where I was at and where I could have been and now I'm back in the mix. I know I took a big chance taking that fight. Taking that fight was a big chance and Guida knew it was a huge opportunity for him. It was one of those things where, "do you wait a year or do you take a chance and fight?" I took the chance and took the fight and it sucks the way it went but it's motivation for this next fight.
Luke Thomas: Even though you lost, are you glad you took the fight and didn't wait a year?
Anthony Pettis: Yeah, for sure, man. I'm glad I took the fight. I got some experience under my belt. I'm ready to go out there and do work.
Luke Thomas: So this will be the biggest event you've ever fought on, is that correct?
Anthony Pettis: Yes, for sure.
Luke Thomas: Any renewed pressure there?
Anthony Pettis: Nah, not really, man. I'm getting all that mental stuff out of my head and just focusing on what I do best.
Luke Thomas: One more question about Stephens here. Do you watch tape? To what extent do you do your homework on your opposition?
Anthony Pettis: Yeah, I usually watch tape just a little bit. I don't really like consume myself with watching it the whole time. I let my coaches do that and come up with the gameplan. For this camp. I've seen him fight Dannyboy Downes, my teammate, in his last fight so I've kinda got a good idea with his gameplan, his striking and I know what he does.
Luke Thomas: What did Danny tell you about the keys to beating Jeremy?
Anthony Pettis: Danny didn't win the fight so he couldn't tell me how to beat him.
Luke Thomas: Fair enough, but what did he see where he could say, "this could be exploited by you"?
Anthony Pettis: He just told me that he wasn't as strong as everybody makes him out to be. Obviously he was expecting that right hand that once it landed, crumbled me but you know, he hit me a couple times with the right hand and it wasn't as strong as everyone makes it out to be.
Luke Thomas: There's two major fights on this card that I want to get your predictions on. One, because it portends for you and maybe a fight you were going to get at one point. First of all, in the co-main event, Kenny Florian against Jose Aldo. It's a featherweight bout. Is Kenny Florian the same guy at featherweight that he was at lightweight in your mind, at age 35 no less and who do you like in that fight?
Anthony Pettis: I like Jose Aldo just because he's been at that weight for a while and he's been performing really good at that weight. In his last fight he wasn't himself because he had to drop a lot of weight. I think K-Flo, his last outing, you really can't tell he only had one fight at 145 but he didn't really look as strong as he normally does at 155. He didn't look like himself.
Luke Thomas: And the main event, Frankie Edgar against Gray Maynard and for the first time betting-wise, Edgar goes in as the favorite. Do you like that? Do you like him to win?
Anthony Pettis: Yeah. I think Edgar should win this fight. I think he won the last fight and as long as he stays away from Maynard's power he should get the ‘W.'
Luke Thomas: Is it me, tell me if I'm characterizing this correctly. It looks to me like every time Edgar fights Maynard, that first round was a bit of trouble for him in the second fight but he's the one making more adjustments to his game over time. True or false?
Anthony Pettis: True. I think in the last fight he got a lot of big takedowns, stuffed some takedowns and he was landing more of the combos and the hands. I thought he looked good besides the first round.