Anthony Pettis used to be the UFC lightweight champion, and also fought at featherweight in 2016. However, his first fight in 2019 will be at welterweight, where he will take on former title challenger, Stephen Thompson.
For Pettis, moving up to 170 to fight ‘Wonderboy’ was an easy decision.
“Honestly, at 155 I practically fought the entire division. There are a couple guys who I have fought that I want some rematches,” Pettis said to BJPENN.com. “The division is in a pause right now. Of course, some things need to be figured out, but I also thought of going to welterweight. I actually fought at welterweight early in my career in Wisconsin.
“‘Wonderboy’ it’s just he is one of those guys I need to fight before I’m done,” he continued. “Before I retire I want to fight in the fights I want, and personally, that was one of the fights I wanted. I like his style, I come from a Tae-Kwon Do background he comes from a Karate background. It is an entertaining fight. He is just one of those guys who will come to fight.”
At welterweight, Pettis will be fully energized when he walks into the Octagon. He will not have to cut any weight which should help his performance. That, along with the Thompson matchup itself were the big reasons why he decided to make the move to welterweight.
“I think if I go in there and I feel the way I feel, like the ’55 cut is getting harder, it takes away my energy and I think my performances have been hindered because my weight cuts are hard,” Pettis said of potentially staying at 170. “I talked to my team about it a long time ago and we knew ‘Wonderboy’ was available. There are a lot of wrestlers in 170. Like if it came down to a title fight it would make sense, but Thompson for me is a striking match. Traditional martial artist vs traditional martial artist, so it is a good matchup for me.”
Although Pettis is moving up in weight to fight a natural welterweight, he isn’t worried about being undersized. He knows what kind of fight Thompson fights and none of it relies on size.
“I know I’m undersized. He is a natural 170, he has to cut down to 170,” he said. “I will not have to cut any weight at all. He is not the guy who will hold me down so the size is not that big of a deal. If a clean punch hits you it doesn’t matter if the guy weighs 155 pounds or 170 pounds, if it is clean it is clean. I spar big guys all the time, so I’m not worried about it.”
Pettis’ training camp has already started for this fight. It is a fight Pettis wanted and got. Although many are counting him out, he isn’t worried about that because he believes he is a better fighter than Thompson.
“Thompson’s whole game plan is range. He gets these guys so fixated on hitting on him, they walk right into his punches and roundhouse kicks,” Pettis said. “The game he plays I have done that my whole life. The point sparring is what I grew up doing. When it comes to overall martial arts, I’m a better Thai boxer than him, I’m a better boxer than him, I’m better at jiu-jitsu than him. Other than size, overall skill-wise I’m better than him.”
Although Pettis believes he is the better fighter, he isn’t sure how this fight will play out. All he knows is that he plans to move forward.
“I don’t even know and that is the exciting part about it,” he said. “I don’t even know if he is going to try and wrestle me and use his size advantage and hold me up against the cage and score points that way. Or, if he will try and stay long and have a standup fight. It depends what he wants to do. I know I’m moving forward. I have nothing to lose so I’m biting down on my mouthpiece and moving forward.”
Pettis and Thompson will be the main event of UFC Nashville. As this challenge bears down, he says he’s most excited to go out there and give the fans in Nashville an unforgettable show.
“I’m excited to go out and give these fans a show,” he concluded.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 1/21/2019.