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Anthony Pettis eying a spring return, wants three fights in 2015

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis has fought only three times in the last two years, including his title defense against Gilbert Melendez at UFC 181 on Dec. 6.

Not that Pettis likes taking time off. A series of injuries and circumstances have led to his relative inactivity, a fact that Pettis bemoaned leading up to UFC 181. Pettis has made it know he wants to stay active going forward. In fact, Pettis's manager Mike Roberts told UFC Tonight's Ariel Helwani that if the champ has it his way, he'll fight three times in 2015.

According to the report on UFC Tonight, Pettis would ideally like to fight again in either March or April, so that he can fight again in July, and then one last time by the end of the year. Of course, with a two-way race at the top of the division between Rafael dos Anjos and Khabib Nurmagomedov playing out, this could dovetail nicely with schedules.

Nurmagomedov is still recovering from ACL surgery, and, according to his manager Ali Abdel-Aziz, hasn't been cleared and won't be able to return until around May. That would pave the way for Dos Anjos, who dominated Nate Diaz on Dec. 13 at UFC on FOX 13 in Phoenix en-route to a unanimous decision. Dos Anjos has won three straight fights, and eight of nine overall. In a perfect world, Pettis could fight Dos Anjos in the spring, and -- with a victory -- then defend against Nurmagomedov in July.

According to Roberts, Pettis is open to a fight with Dos Anjos this spring with the understanding that Nurmagomedov won't be ready to go by then.

Yet though Nurmagomedov's camp told Helwani that they'll be ready for a July title shot, they are less sure who'll they'll be fighting when the time comes.

Abdel-Aziz said that Nurmagomedov believes the UFC is protecting Pettis from him, adding that he also thinks Dos Anjos is also a bad matchup for Pettis. Nurmagomedov's camp thinks that Dos Anjos will defeat Pettis, therefore rendering any accusations of "ducking" moot.

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