If Anthony Pettis is supposed to be worried about his UFC future, that’s news to him.
Whether competing at 155 or 170 (or even 145 on occasion), Pettis, 33, has been one of the UFC’s most reliable competitors, bringing both an exciting style to the octagon and a familiar face for longtime followers of the promotion. That veteran status has provided him with some security even as he’s struggled to string together consecutive wins over the past few years. However, other UFC stalwarts have recently seen their time with the promotion come to an end, with UFC President Dana White mentioning that there will likely be more cuts before the end of the year.
In an interview with MMA Fighting, Pettis was asked if he felt any added pressure to take a fight with the relatively lesser known Morono due to the UFC’s recent cuts.
“Not at all,” Pettis said. “Honestly, I could have not taken a fight and just rode it out until next year, but no, I didn’t feel any pressure on that. If the UFC decides they don’t want me on that roster anymore—I’ve been with this company for 12 years and I’ve seen everything in this company from the Fertitta brothers, from the sale of the company to where we’re at now, Reebok coming in as a sponsor, I’ve been around for all this. I don’t feel any pressure on that. It’s a business and I understand.
“I feel like I’m always on the chopping block. Every time, the way I go fight, it’s like I better win this fight and I better be impressive or you never know if your job is still available the next day. There’s always these young, hungry guys coming up. So I don’t feel any pressure on that.”
If the Morono booking raised eyebrows, it’s not through any fault of Morono’s. Last month, “The Great White” rebounded from a loss to Khaos Williams by taking a unanimous decision against Rhys McKee to win his fourth fight in five appearances.
Pettis’ resume is a who’s who of UFC greats, including Max Holloway, Benson Henderson, Donald Cerrone, Nate Diaz, Rafael dos Anjos, Tony Ferguson and UFC Vegas 17 headliner Stephen Thompson, the last of whom Pettis knocked out in March 2019. Morono is still building his legacy, but Pettis sees him as being as worthy an opponent as any fighter he’s faced before.
“He’s dangerous,” Pettis said. “I think people are not giving him credit because he doesn’t have a name yet, but these are the fights it takes to make a name. I watched his last fights. He’s not a bum. No one in the UFC is a bum. Everyone in the UFC has talent. There’s no easy fights in the UFC. He definitely has holes in his game just like everybody else, but I feel like when I’m in tune with myself and I’m performing on all cylinders, I don’t think anybody could beat me. That’s my objective.
“My objective is to go in there, get my mind right, and get into that flow immediately. I can’t take a round to get in the flow, I can’t take two rounds. I’ve got to get in there and immediately feel like I’m firing on all cylinders.”
Should Pettis triumph on Saturday, he’ll find himself in an intriguing position as the Morono bout marks the last of his current UFC contract. A win would put him in the driver’s seat as far as re-signing with the promotion he’s called home since 2011 and also provide leverage should he decide to end this UFC run on his own terms.
Wherever Pettis ends up, he’s decided that now is not the time for picking and choosing fights. If he’s to work his way to a championship opportunity it won’t be through callouts of marquee names. He wants to climb the ladder the old-fashioned way.
“I think my approach this year is not going to be looking for these big name fights,” Pettis said. “I’m gonna build my resume and build my skill set and be ready for a title shot. Even taking this fight, that’s kind of the reason why this is where I’m at. The growth I had this year is of mindset, mental growth, but I’ve had to look back at my career and a lot of the decisions I made in the fights that I was trying to fight, I had no reasoning behind it. I was like, let me fight Anderson Silva, let me fight ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, there was no real reason behind it, it was just like, ‘Yo, what’s the next big thing?’
“I kind of pulled myself back and settled down looking at my career, what my objectives are, what my goals are, and I’m taking a slower approach this time. I’m going to be more selective and smart in my opponents.”
Pettis’ thoughtful approach to his career is one that the he expects to serve him well as he focuses on other professional endeavors, including his management company Show Time Sports Entertainment Group. At 26, Pettis was a UFC champion, but looking back he sees a multitude of mistakes that he made along the way and he hopes to help up-and-coming fighters avoid those pitfalls.
Heading into a pivotal fight, what advice would Pettis have for those looking to become the next “Showtime?”
“Don’t be the next Anthony Pettis,” Pettis said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career and I’m learning from these mistakes, but I want to give these guys the opportunity to be the best version of themselves.
“So that’s my biggest advice. Find the right formula that makes you the best version of yourself.”