Sergio Pettis had a great deal of success in the UFC’s flyweight division, winning five fights and developing into a top-5 contender before his 25th birthday.
But he recently made the move back up to 135 pounds and according to his coach Duke Roufus, that’s where Pettis is going to stay. The Milwaukee native’s first four Octagon appearances took place at bantamweight and he went 3-1 before dropping down to 125 pounds in March 2015. There, he picked up notable victories over past title challengers Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga, while falling short against longtime contender Jussier Formiga and current UFC champion Henry Cejudo.
“I feel that 135’s gonna be his home just due to he’s growing, he’s bigger,” Roufus recently told MMA Fighting when asked if there was any thought to Pettis competing in another promotion that may have better opportunities for him at 125 pounds. “Everyone thinks we went up to ‘35 because of the [uncertainty with the] ‘25 division.
“The year before he had a real flat performance against Henry. He had cut four times [including a canceled bout with Cejudo that was later rescheduled] in a calendar year to make 125. When you cut that much weight it just takes a lot out of you and I feel like it was depleting him. We just had so many fights, stayed pretty busy, and this little break has been very good for him health-wise, spiritually, mentally.”
Pettis made his pro debut in September 2011 and Roufus thinks that he’s simply reached a point in his career where it’s natural to hit a wall, which may explain why he’s won just one of his last four contests. Now, Roufus wants to get back to developing Pettis’s skills as opposed to rushing him into one fight after another.
“We were stuck in training camp mode very often and the problem sometimes with training camp mode is we’re preparing for a fight, we’re not getting better at our weaknesses, we’re not exploring new tech, etc., and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Roufus said. “He graduated from high school and he turned professional. He’s 25 years old, he’s been at this seven years straight, not with a lot of injuries, so we’ve been grinding for a while. Sometimes you need a little slow-down for a minute to make sure you’re following up with it again, if that makes sense.
“Not that he’s burnt out. He’s got an incredible mindset and he’s just an incredible person, but I think it’s been a healthy break for him. He’s still training, but he’s fallen in love with the process even more.”
Pettis is yet to have his first fight of 2019 booked, but his team is aiming to have him compete at UFC 238 on June 8 or UFC on ESPN 4 on June 29. Both events take place in states neighboring Wisconsin, making things more convenient for Pettis as he attempts to right the ship.
“We’re working on potentially June 8 in Chicago if not the end of June in Minnesota,” Roufus said. “There’s a good fanbase for the UFC of Pettis supporters in the Midwest so either one of those dates would be great for Sergio, great for the company. It’s a win-win for everybody.”