After nearly a decade inside the Octagon, Anthony Pettis recently parted ways with the UFC. The former champion in the WEC and UFC then made a move that turned heads among MMA circles in joining the up-and-coming Professional Fighters League.
“The PFL is on ESPN, I feel like I’m going to be a face of the organization and I have the ability to become a champion in 12 months,” Pettis said in an interview with Uproxx Sports. “I knew I wanted to be a champion. I knew whatever organization I was going to, that I’d be going for that belt. And their format, a season where whoever wins at the end of the year is the champion and there’s a million dollar prize as well.All of those things played into (me joining the PFL).”
Like many around the world, the last year opened Pettis’s eyes and encouraged him to take control of his career. After back-to-back losses to Nate Diaz and Diego Ferreira, Pettis says a meeting with a sports psychologist opened his mind up.
“2020 hit with COVID and I had the opportunity to fight Donald Cerrone,” Pettis said. “With that new mindset, I decided right then and there that I’m going to fight my contract out. I had two fights left and an offer from the UFC. I could have stayed with the UFC. But I decided I wanted to see what was out there and not make these quick decisions, trying to get the next big fight, next big name. I think it made all of us kind of just look at life a little different, slow it down and eliminate all the BS that we had in our lives.”
Pettis is looking forward to the PFL’s format, where fighters compete through a regular season and can qualify for the playoffs and a potential title shot by accruing points from wins. It’s the straightforward nature of the structure that encouraged him to move away from the UFC.
“I think (if I had gone back to the UFC) it would have been one of those things where I had to take these aggressive fights,” Pettis said. “It’s been short-notice fights moving down to 145 pounds, 170 pounds. I’ve been all over the place chasing a belt in the UFC. I didn’t have time to sit back and take a look at what I was doing, getting better as a fighter, as a person and as an athlete. I was rushing into these fights and rushing into these decisions and it’s all my fault. That mindset got me in trouble with my decisions and where I was fighting and who I was fighting. I’m going down to 145 pounds to fight Max Holloway, fighting Wonderboy at 170 pounds, just making crazy decisions.”
At 33 years old, Pettis believes he has time to progress, get better and truly fight for his legacy. He’ll take that mindset to the PFL, where he’s fighting at his natural weight of 155 pounds.
“Obviously (PFL lightweight champion Natan Schulte) has been champion for two years in a row. He’s definitely on the radar, but I feel like everybody’s going to be coming for me,” Pettis said. “Whenever I fight someone, I’m fighting the best version of them. They know the opportunities that come with fighting someone like me. This year, I’m focusing on growth, getting my mindset strong and growing in all aspects. I know that if I’m a happy fighter and mentally there, I don’t think anyone in the world can beat me.”
Pettis will join a stacked roster that includes fellow veterans Fabricio Werdum and Rory MacDonald, along with women’s phenom Kayla Harrison when the regular season kicks off April 23 on ESPN2, with scheduled bouts to be announced in the coming months.