Given the opportunity to face a top bantamweight contender, Rob Font fell short and there was no telling when he’d get an opportunity like that again.
Little did he know that his very next fight would be against another opponent ranked in the top 5, though in this case it was flyweight star Sergio Pettis.
Font welcomes Pettis back to the 135-pound division Saturday at UFC on FOX 31 in Pettis’s hometown of Milwaukee, and he likes his chances especially considering that Pettis is going to be giving up plenty of size when the two step into the Octagon.
“I feel like I’m a bad matchup for anybody, but essentially a smaller guy coming up,” Font told MMA Fighting. “I’m a pretty big bantamweight, so I feel like they’re overlooking me. I feel I’ll make them pay for sure.”
Crossing paths with Pettis wasn’t exactly happenstance for Font, who targeted Pettis as a potential dance partner years ago. Pettis began his UFC career going 3-1 at bantamweight, and during that stretch Font was looking to make an even bigger statement after knocking out George Roop in his own debut with the promotion back in 2014. He called Pettis out, only to see Pettis drop down to his more natural weight class of 125 pounds before the two could fight.
Font continued to carve out his own path at 135 pounds, becoming one of the division’s most proven finishers. Though his 5-3 UFC record may not jump off the page, all of Font’s wins on this stage have come via knockout or submission. He’s been somewhat neglected when it comes to talking about the company’s most exciting fighters, a situation that he intends to rectify on Saturday.
“A little bit,” Font said. “I feel like I haven’t got that big name yet, so everybody knows I’m here to put on a show, I’m here to finish fights, but I’m not that household name yet because I haven’t finished a big name yet. Sergio Pettis definitely has a big name and I think this sets up a fight with another top-10 bantamweight.”
What that top-10 will look like in a few months is unclear, especially with bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw moonlighting at 125 pounds in January for a fight with flyweight champion Henry Cejudo. That leaves the rest of the bantamweight contenders to jockey for position among themselves.
Add in the rumors that the flyweight division will be closed down, and there’s a chance many of its top fighters migrate up to bantamweight, further muddying up the waters. Font isn’t shying away from the influx of talent.
“There’s going to be a lot more opportunities, more fights out there, more exciting fights,” Font said. “Less weight-cut issues for the ‘25ers coming up, but it’s good and bad. It sucks that they’re doing whatever they’re doing with that division, but it’s kind of good to me because it means there’s a lot more opportunities.”
Prior to Pettis’s team making the call for the 25-year-old fighter to move back to 135 pounds, he had established himself as a top name at flyweight. Though he lost to Jussier Formiga in his most recent outing this past October, Pettis had also recently beaten longtime flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez to cap off a stretch of five wins in six fights.
That put him on the short list for a title shot in his division, one that might not exist soon, so Font isn’t exactly sure what his own standing will be should he get past Pettis this weekend.
“It’s weird,” Font said. “He’s definitely a high-ranked bantamweight, so I don’t think I move much, maybe in the top-10, but I don’t even see that happening. It’s a fight for the fans, but I think it sets up a big fight for me afterwards.”