As the old adage goes, “If you can’t beat ’em, drop a weight class.” Or something like that…
After losing three straight fights, former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (pictured) is working on a move to the featherweight division. The 29-year-old made the announcement on his verified Instagram account with the hashtag “#145intheworks.”
Not too many moons ago, Pettis was a skyrocketing superstar that not only donned the UFC belt, but became the only UFC fighter to grace the cover of a Wheaties box. “Showtime” was the UFC’s first athlete to secure an individual sponsorship deal with Reebok before they became the UFC’s exclusive outfitter.
After submitting Benson Henderson in 2013 to capture the lightweight title, UFC president Dana White admitted at the post-fight press conference that, “If you get a guy and he fights like Anthony Pettis, and he looks like Anthony Pettis, and he dresses like Anthony Pettis, that doesn’t suck, either. When you got a guy who’s got the whole package, and that kid does, it’s not a bad thing.”
White thought he had found his next superstar and put the UFC’s powerful marketing machine behind him. The UFC helped Pettis secure endorsements with Monster, Monster Energy, Toyo Tires and Xyience – four of the few companies the UFC was still allowing to advertise inside their octagon.
Unfortunately for Pettis, he only managed to successfully defend his crown once before getting dominated by now-champ Rafael Dos Anjos last March. He then dropped a split decision to Eddie Alvarez and most recently was out-struck by Edson Barboza in April for a unanimous decision defeat.
Many UFC fighters get fired after losing three straight, but that isn’t happening to Pettis. He’s far too big of a name. Even if he drops his next fight, there’s no way the UFC will cut him loose so he can run straight into Bellator MMA’s open arms.
Lightweight has long been the UFC’s deepest division. Knowing that it would take forever to challenge for the 155-pound title while in the midst of a three-fight skid, Pettis’ move to featherweight was a predictable one. The UFC likely encouraged the change of scenery.
While it is unknown if UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor will ever return to the division to defend his throne, that’s a potential blockbuster for Pettis. Former champ Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar will battle for the vacant interim featherweight belt at UFC 200, and the winner would also present a big fight for Pettis – particularly Aldo.
A tango with up-and-comer Max Holloway would be a nice co-main event, too.
Ten less pounds will look good on Pettis. He’ll be quicker, faster and more dynamic – which, if he reverts to his “Showtime” ways – is a very scary thought. It’s also the quickest path back to a UFC title tilt.