UFC’s Featherweight Division Needs Anthony Pettis

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis is without a doubt one of the most spectacular fighters on the UFC’s roster. There are few people on the planet that can excite and enthrall the way the Duke Roufus product can inside the Octagon and up until his meeting with current champion Rafael Dos Anjos, it looked likely that he would remain as champion of the bracket for a long time.

The discussion about Pettis’s move down to featherweight really gained momentum when the talk of a super fight with featherweight king Jose Aldo was brought up. Such was Aldo’s dominance at the top of the division that the idea of Pettis moving down to challenge ‘Scarface’ was a viable option for both fighters. However, an injury to Pettis in 2013 halted the talk of the bout. The champion versus champion angle never fails to grasp the attention of the fan base, but now that a new challenge has arrived in the division in the shape of Conor McGregor, the need to outsource opponents for the undisputed champion is not as pertinent. 

Pettis is set to meet fellow top lightweight Eddie Alvarez in January, but the booking of another bout at 155 lbs has not stopped people asking questions about his future at featherweight. As a former champion with a 5-2 UFC record against some of the top lightweights in the world, there is no doubt that ‘Showtime’ could continue to on in the weight class and have great success, but when asked by GNP1.de about the move Pettis confirmed that 145 “has always been an option” for him. However, the Taekwondo black belt maintained that he wants to reclaim his lightweight title before he sets his crosshairs on another division. 

“Featherweight has always been an option,” said Pettis in late September. “I want my belt back, that’s my main goal. You know, I’m doing well financially. I’m not hurting at all. So for me, the goal right now is getting my belt back. What happens after that fight, we’ll see. People want to see McGregor? I fight McGregor. People want to see Aldo? I fight Aldo. That’s what it’s all about.”

In the same interview, Pettis claimed that it was the lack of “money fights” at featherweight that was initially pushing him toward the lighter weight, given that a bout between him and Aldo would have guaranteed selling power. The Milwaukee man underlined his belief that the 155 lbs division is “the deepest” in the UFC, a view that would be shared by many, and that McGregor’s aspirations of running through the higher weight class were “crazy.”

“It’s all talk until it happens man,” Pettis said during an interview with GNP1.de. “He talks well, he’s doing a great job for his weight class. I mean, there would be no big money fights in featherweight, that’s why I was gonna move down there. Me and Aldo was gonna be a big money fight for Aldo, but now with Conor McGregor in there, talking himself up, making himself marketable.

“Good for him doing that, but lightweight is a whole different place. It’s not featherweight. Besides Aldo, there’s not much, I mean there is talent - Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes—but lightweight is the deepest division in the UFC, it’s a totally different story. For him to say, he’s gonna come up there and walk through everybody, it’s crazy. He’s only beat Chad Mendes, one guy in the featherweight class that’s top five.”

Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC

There is no denying that the lightweight division would miss Pettis, but given the constant talk of both McGregor and Aldo eyeing a move up to 155 lbs, the American’s reasons for dropping down could be obscured quite soon.

McGregor is adamant that his UFC 194 meeting with Aldo could be one of his last fights at featherweight. Every time the Dubliner takes to the scales to weigh in there is never a shortage of people claiming that he is simply too big for the weight class. ‘The Notorious’ has been stirring the pot Dos Anjos too, which could further point to his jump up in weight that he seems to be planning for 2016.

Jose Aldo is another man that many have speculated would move up to lightweight throughout his career. His struggles to constantly weigh in at 145 lbs mark have been well documented. The Brazilian spoke of a big announcement after his UFC 189 clash with Conor McGregor, but in an interview with Sherdog in March, the champion indicated that there would be no announcement “now that Pettis has lost.”

“It was going to be a good announcement,” Aldo told Sherdog. “Now that Pettis has lost, I don’t know how things are going to be because that fight has cooled down a bit.”

Aldo’s initially reacted badly to the incoming IV regulations, which can only lead to further discussion on how capable he is at weighing in at the featherweight limit.

The fact that Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes were overlooked for further shots at Aldo’s title at the expense of Conor McGregor proves that the Irishman brings something more to the forefront. Given the Irishman’s support and the numbers he can generate for PPV’s based on UFC 189, it made sense for the UFC to put him into the championship bout. There is no doubt that a massive gulf would be left should either he or Aldo choose to step up.

While there is no denying the skillset of both Mendes and Edgar, it’s hard to see the same fan interest in the featherweight bracket without the longstanding champion Aldo and one of the most captivating figures the sport has ever seen, McGregor. Although Pettis is still very much in the lightweight title chase, he could make a huge impact on the 145 lbs division, especially if the two men who hold the division’s two titles move up.

As he as already outlined, it is “money fights” that interest Pettis at this stage outside of reclaiming his belt, and should the UFC be able to organize super fights with McGregor or Aldo for ‘Showtime’, either at 155 or 145, maybe the drop down would seem more appealing to him.

Right now, Pettis is still very much in the hunt to get his lightweight title back around his waist, something we know he is very capable of despite Dos Anjos one-sided win over him in their first bout. However, should he fail to take a victory over Eddie Alvarez, a move to featherweight could be pushed to the forefront.


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