“I was a little scared about that,” Pettis said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I like the UFC, I like being a part of it, it’s the best organization in the world. And hearing that obviously was a little scary. I started eating right away and thinking I’m going up to ’35. But yeah man, I was definitely scared.”
However, not only has the division’s existential threat passed, but Pettis will headline a UFC card for the first time in his career on Saturday night. The man who used to mainly be known as former UFC and WEC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis’ little brother is staking his own claim in the fight world, and he’ll headline UFC Fight Night 114 in Mexico City on Saturday night against Brandon Moreno.
“I’m out here in Mexico City doing the press and everything and it’s all new to me but I love it,” Pettis said. “I’m feeding off the energy and being surrounded by such hard-working individuals makes me want to work that much harder.”
Pettis comes into Saturday’s matchup on a three-fight win streak, with five victories in his past six bouts.
But the one fight he lost in that stretch is the one he feels was most important to his development. Pettis dropped a second-round TKO to Ryan Benoit at UFC 185, after which he made a conscious decision to change his approach.
“After the Benoit loss, I got TKO’d and I had to go back to home,” Pettis said. “And I kind of took a break from training and from training and I kind of just trained my mindset and trained my maturity and myself and I knew that I deserved better and that I am better than that, so, I got back to the drawing board and made some changes and mentally I would say it was something I really needed to access. I would say, I had a lot of physical abilities but mentally I had to train my brain and my mindset.”
“I stopped putting pressure on myself,” Pettis said. “I used to in the beginning of my career put a lot of pressure on myself, thinking that I have to be the crazy little brother, had to perform a crazy style, but I stopped putting the pressure on myself and just go out there and flow and when I’m out there, I view it as an art. I’m not stressing myself, I’m calm in my situations where I should be calm and I’m confident and out there I just feel like it’s my canvas.”
But the Moreno main event is a decent consolation prize, a chance to prove he’s a true contender for longtime champion Demetrious Johnson.
“I think I’m at that age where I’m ready, and maturity-wise, I’m ready. Obviously first is Brandon Moreno, this Saturday, I think this is going to be a breakout fight for myself. I’m going to show the world I have a lot of talent. Like I said, I didn’t put lot of pressure on myself this fight.”
Pettis has declined to join others in the division who have criticized DJ for not bringing more attention to 125, saying it’s on the up-and-comers in the division to present the dominant champion a challenge.
“That’s a lot of pressure to put on DJ,” Pettis said. “He’s been having these amazing performances, so to say that he’s not, that he’s the reason the flyweight division isn’t as popular, I wouldn’t say its his fault, it’s a matter of, it’s our fault. The other fighters, we have to catch up to him and challenge him.”
And with a win over Moreno on Saturday, Pettis could be the one who gets the chance to do it.
“I think the flyweight [division] has a future,” Pettis said. “These young athletes are getting better and better and it’s just a matter of time before someone catches up to DJ, just like the other[Jose] Aldo reign, and the Anderson Silva, somebody will catch up, and it’s a matter of time. I hope to be that person.”