Anthony Pettis (pictured) was all set up to receive the Ronda Rousey treatment from the UFC en route to superstardom.
Given his youth, flashy fight game, charisma and good looks, the UFC put their massive marketing machine behind Pettis. Shortly after capturing the lightweight title in August 2013, Pettis was the UFC’s first athlete to score an individual sponsorship deal with Reebok, long before Reebok was the exclusive apparel company for the UFC.
Pettis then became the first UFC fighter to don a Wheaties box. You can’t really get any more mainstream than that as an athlete.
In his very first title defense, it all nearly came crashing down when Gilbert Melendez grounded Pettis’ aerial assault with the perfect game plan. “El Nino” was set to rain on Pettis’ parade until an arrant exchange left an opening for Pettis to slap on a guillotine choke to escape with a second round victory.
Pettis wasn’t as fortunate three months later when Rafael Dos Anjos tore a page out of Melendez’s playbook and did a better job of exposing Pettis’ ground game. After five lopsided rounds, Dos Anjos completely derailed the “Showtime” train.
It’s hard to believe, but with other stars emerging to hoard the MMA headlines, Pettis was nearly an afterthought in 2015.
Which leads us to Sunday, 10 long months after the biggest loss of his promising career, Pettis, still just 28, looks to get things back on track against a fellow former champ in Eddie Alvarez (but of the Bellator MMA variety). There’s nothing the UFC would love more than to get another lightweight superstar back in the mix, especially with cash cow Conor McGregor set to make his debut in the division.
A future showdown pitting Pettis against McGregor could be epic, but Pettis must first prove he is still the stud the UFC, Wheaties and Reebok thought he was prior to getting dominated for his crown.
It’s “Showtime.” Lights, camera, action!