Pettis expects to return to the cage in March. Just where he ends up depends on how negotiations go on his next deal, he told ESPN following a decision over Alex Morono on the preliminary card of Saturday’s event at UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
“I’m going to take the holiday off, honestly,” Pettis told ESPN. “That was the last fight on my UFC contract, and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m open to see what they come back at me at.
“My little brother’s outside of the UFC now, and it’s one of those things like I’m not attached to anything any more. I’m taking one fight at a time. My goal is to be the best version of myself. Obviously, the UFC is where the best guys are at, so I would love to fight in this organization still. But we’ll see what happens. Contracts negotiations are something that happens outside of my world. I still have an agent to take care of that.”
Pettis has fought under the UFC banner – directly or indirectly – for 11 years, starting with the now-defunct WEC, which was purchased by then UFC parent company Zuffa before the promotion was folded into the UFC. In that time, he’s won titles in both the WEC and UFC, competed and won in three separate weight divisions and become a star.
Pettis’ career has been rockier since the loss of the UFC lightweight title to now-former champ Rafael dos Anjos in 2015. At times, his longevity has been an open question with consistent losses against ranked opposition.
After an early 2020 setback, though, Pettis has rebounded with a pair of wins, starting with one over his former WEC colleague Donald Cerrone and Morono. The ex-champ looked sharp competing at welterweight.
But after Saturday, Pettis said, he’s headed back down to his longtime lightweight division, where he’ll give up far less in size. The 155-pound class is no easier in terms of competition, but Pettis said work on his mindset and several lifestyle changes, including the exclusion of alcohol and marijuana, have paid dividends.
At the post-fight press conference, Pettis welcomed a rematch with ex-interim champ Tony Ferguson, who at UFC 256 suffered a devastating setback with a loss to Charles Oliveira. Ferguson beat him via TKO two years ago at UFC 229, and Pettis would like to get that one back.
“I think Tony makes sense, man,” Pettis said. “Coming off his two losses, and he’s fighting tough dudes, and that’s what I hate about this sport. Guys are like, ‘Tony’s done.’ He’s a dangerous dude, but that would be a good fight for me to jump back into the lightweight mix.”
Whether he chooses to stay or leave the UFC, Pettis isn’t quite a free agent yet. First, he is subject to an exclusive negotiating period with the industry-leader. If a deal isn’t reached at that point, he enters a matching period where other promoters can bid for his services and the UFC has the right to meet or beat offers.
Moving forward, Pettis said he’ll take action based on what will allow him to finish his career on a high note.
“I just watched that documentary ‘Macho Time,’ about [boxer] Hector Camacho, and just seeing his legacy play out,” he said. “I’m writing my legacy right now, and I’ve got to take this part serious. I’ve done so much in this sport – WEC world champ, UFC world champ, wins in three different weight classes. I’ve done a lot. Right now, it’s about legacy. The rest of these couple years, the goal I wrote down is to win every round in every fight. I lost one of those rounds, so I’ve got to make adjustments and keep getting better.”
Time with his family will come first before he dives back into training. But by 2021, he could be at the start of a whole new chapter in his decorated career.
Check out the full interviews below.