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Coach: Anthony Pettis not expected to need surgery for UFC 241 injuries, hopes to compete again in 2019

Anthony Pettis
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It didn’t look good for Anthony Pettis after going three action-packed rounds with Nate Diaz at UFC 241, but his outlook for the near future is better than expected.

Immediately after his fight this past Saturday, Pettis limped out of the cage, showing the effects of an apparent foot injury that was later confirmed to be a break by his team. The official medical suspensions also mentioned a possible orbital fracture and that Pettis could be potentially sidelined for six months barring clearance from a physician for his injuries.

Speaking to MMA Fighting, Pettis’s coach Duke Roufus said that his fighter has received good news and is not expected to need surgery or any further procedures to address his foot or orbital injuries, and that all Pettis has to look forward to is a period of rest and recovery.

Roufus also mentioned that Pettis had some pre-fight maladies that he battled through due to the importance of the Diaz fight. This was Diaz’s first fight in three years and he defeated Pettis by unanimous decision in his return. After Pettis had a leg kick checked in round one that caused him to stumble, it was noticeable that his movements were somewhat limited, but Roufus put those worries to the back of his mind because that’s what Pettis told him to do before the fight.

Last October at UFC 229, Roufus called for a corner stoppage after the second round when it appeared that Pettis had injured his hand against Tony Ferguson. Heading into the Diaz matchup, Pettis had Roufus assure him that he wouldn’t throw in the towel under any circumstances.

“He didn’t tell me about the injury at all during the fight because he didn’t want me to stop the fight,” Roufus said. “He told me before the fight, ‘Don’t stop this fight, coach.’ And that’s a problem I’m having with my guys now. I stop the fight and now they lie to me and don’t tell me any injuries. Sergio Pettis did the same thing in Milwaukee [against Rob Font], lacerated his cornea in the first round of that fight and he fought the whole fight with one eye.

“So that being said, Anthony broke that foot on that check where he fell down. That’s where he broke the foot and I was wondering the whole fight why he couldn’t just do certain things. I wanted a straight right hand, an elbow even. He couldn’t push off, he couldn’t kick, now I understand what he was doing.”

Roufus added that Paul Felder, another Roufusport standout, also refused to show any sign that he couldn’t continue when he broke his arm against Mike Perry at UFC 226 in July of last year (Felder went on to lost a split decision to Perry). Both Pettis and Felder have a close relationship with Roufus and the only real sign of discomfort they gave him was to bury their heads in his chest between rounds, just to distract themselves from their injuries.

Making sure to give praise to Diaz, Roufus did not point to Pettis’s injuries as an excuse for the loss and noted that “I think Diaz has arrived.” He also commended Diaz for his professionalism all throughout fight week.

Regarding his fighters requesting that their coach let them gut it out under the worst circumstances, Roufus described his working relationship with both Anthony and Sergio Pettis as “unique.”

“I’m friends with all the people I train with,” Roufus said. “It’s different with the Pettis’, they’ve been with me the longest. They’ve been with me through three gyms and locations. So I have a unique relationship with them.

“I mean I’m close with them now, we’re very tight, but he said, ‘We gotta let this one play out.’ And I was confident that he was giving Nate some good shots too. He rocked him with some shots to the head, rocked him to the body, it was a donnybrook.”

Nate Diaz and Anthony Pettis at UFC 241 in Anaheim, California, on Aug. 17, 2019
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Pettis has acquired a laundry list of setbacks, with both in-cage and training injuries to his foot, orbital, hand, ribs, and knee. Currently in his 12th year of pro competition, one has to wonder if there’s a point where there are legitimate concerns about how long his body will hold up fighting at this level.

In the last three years, Pettis has fought the likes of Diaz, Ferguson, Stephen Thompson, Dustin Poirier, and Max Holloway (“When you’re at the top of the sport with these guys, all those names, that’s a murderer’s row,” Roufus said when those names were mentioned. “A lot of future Hall of Famers right there.”), all world champions or title contenders, and Roufus believes that it’s just the nature of the game that a fighter is going to wear down when facing nothing but elite opponents.

“I went through the same thing with my career, that’s why I can kind of help him navigate these situations,” Roufus said, referencing his own time as a competitive kickboxer. “I had a point in my career with my right hand, it was fried. I had a terrible rib cartilage injury that I sustained. I think a lot of guys are getting injured in these fights or I think a lot of guys fight through them all the time, because I went through it. It’s how you make a living.

“We’re fighters—or I was a fighter—They’re fighters. They don’t have a day job, there’s no pension in the UFC or Bellator. So a lot of the time these guys are fighting not at 100 percent because that’s how they feed their families or monetize their skills.”

All that Pettis can do now is wait for his injuries to heal up, a situation that is all too familiar to the 32-year-old welterweight. Health-permitting, Roufus and Pettis will talk about getting him another fight before the end of the year, something he knows fans are looking forward to even though the Diaz fight didn’t go their way.

“If healthy, maybe December, Las Vegas,” Roufus said. “Here’s the thing, did he get the win? No. But man, you love to watch this guy fight. There’s something about his skills and most of the guys I train, especially the guys I train full time and a long time, is I try to teach them to be a promoter. That’s why I had a 20-year fight career and until recently I was even offered some fights, and I’m an old guy. Because you know what? I knew what this fight game’s about, entertainment.

“Sometimes you don’t win, but you entertain. There’s a lot of people out there fighting careful, going out there sparring, playing the system, kind of what Nate Diaz talks about. That’s why I really relate to what Nate Diaz talks about, these ‘real fighters.’ Not putting anyone down, I’m just saying the brand of fighting that I instill in a lot of my guys, they’re doing well and having great careers and it’s exciting. … I think that’s what’s exciting about Anthony. You’re waiting, ‘will he pull it out?’ He doesn’t win every time, but man, he sure gives the fans some fights.”

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