TJ Grant the right choice to face Anthony Pettis

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In the year of the superfight, 2013, we haven’t had any. There was a lofty notion at one point, right around the Super Bowl weekend card in Vegas, that we would. The pivot piece of most scenarios involved Anderson Silva. When he lost to Chris Weidman at UFC 162, an entire ship full of superfights tragically capsized at once.

These things -- with all the fine print and "only ifs" -- are near impossible to put together.

Yet, a superfight could have materialized in the form of featherweight champion Jose Aldo and newly minted lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, and that it's not bums some people out.

This very fight was booked once, for August 3 in Brazil, but it had minimal context even before Pettis hurt his knee and had to pull out. At that time, Pettis was sworn as the No. 1 contender in the lightweight division, but due to circumstances and forks in the road just couldn’t get his shot. So he asked for a chance to sojourn at 145 pounds to take on Aldo instead, and White was smart enough to grant it. At that time he was a non-champion challenging an existing one.

It was a super fight, but not a superfight. More accurate, it was a super cure-all. Pettis gets his title shot, and Aldo gets a viable challenge, and spectators get the closest thing to Chinese wire fu since Sister Street Fighter came out in 1974.

That’s a lot different than Pettis’s circumstances as they stand in early September. Now that he’s the champion at 155 pounds, he’s not challenging anybody. He’s the one being challenged. And the next guy in line to do that is TJ Grant -- the guy who knocked out Gray Maynard (seemingly) three times in a one round to earn it. In a meritocracy, Grant -- who was supposed to fight Henderson in Milwaukee at UFC 164 before getting a concussion while training jiu-jitsu -- shouldn’t have to gangway for anybody.

If not for concerns over Grant’s feelings, then certainly for our own secret handshake-like code of authenticity. Pettis has yet to defend his belt. We’ve heard the cliché that a champion isn’t really a champion until after his first title defense. Right now there’s a proven No. 1 contender who would have been next for Henderson had he won, and he is there for Pettis. Dana White always says that superfights are for when both parties have cleaned out their respective divisions. Pettis hasn’t even grabbed the broom handle yet.

And that’s why, in these vaguely realistic ways, it doesn’t do the UFC much good to roll out a clash of gold between Aldo and Pettis under these updated circumstances. If it was Aldo/Pettis was a fight that was going to do a million pay-per-view buys -- as we speculated a confrontation between Jon Jones and Anderson Silva might -- then maybe.

But that’s not the case. And therefore, not yet.

When Aldo and Pettis do fight -- and it seems like White is looking to put that fight together should Pettis take care of Grant, and Aldo take care of whoever he ends up facing (again, those incalculable "only ifs" come into play) -- it will almost certainly be at 155 pounds. Aldo, who has flirted with the idea of moving up anyway, would be the one challenging Pettis. It helps that Aldo wants to fight Pettis. And that Pettis wants to fight Aldo.

Should that fight comes together in mid-2014, it’ll be big -- at least bigger than it would be right now. The default matchmaking is a good one in this case. Grant is up for a title shot. Pettis has a new belt to defend. And Aldo isn’t going anywhere.

There’s nothing not to like about this arrangement.

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