clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Coach: Anthony Pettis has had ‘amazing time’ preparing for UFC 249 due to COVID-19 training adjustments

Duke Roufus and Anthony Pettis
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

You don’t last in the UFC without being able to adapt.

Every member of the roster has experienced upheaval in training regimens over the previous two months with gyms across the United States shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is especially true for those scheduled to compete at UFC 249 on Saturday, an event that wasn’t even made official until a couple of weeks ago.

Coach Duke Roufus and longtime student Anthony Pettis had a rematch in mind with Donald Cerrone since late this past year, so it’s not as if they’re entering this upcoming fight completely on short-notice. Pettis defeated Cerrone by first-round knockout when the two first fought seven years ago.

If anything, the changes Roufus has had to make courtesy of the pandemic have benefited the 33-year-old former lightweight champion.

“A blessing in disguise, in a lot of different ways,” Roufus told MMA Fighting when asked about how things have changed at his Roufusport gym in Milwaukee. “This situation makes you rethink, re-navigate the situation, and I’m gonna give all the credit to my man Anthony Pettis.

“He came in with an idea of how he wanted to train for this fight, and he brought it to my attention and he communicated very well. We’ve gone with some older methods and preparation for the fight that has produced way better results than we have for some of our last fights. He’s just had an amazing time preparing for this fight. His mind set and his skill set coming into this are just blowing me away. I’m so happy for him.”

So far the fight week schedule in Jacksonville, Fla., hasn’t been any more stressful than usual for Roufus and his team outside of additional testing and screening in regards to the coronavirus. The coach has already undergone one test, which Pettis shared on social media.

Roufus is glad he was tested for the coronavirus. The procedure was only a minor inconvenience for him in the grand scheme of things given how it’s affected the rest of the world. On a micro level, he sees the isolation as having helped Pettis to refocus, and the two have been able to continue to working through quarantine at the fighter’s private gym in Milwaukee.

“There’s something unique about this situation that’s forced our lives to really slow down, and we’re so under-stimulated, so there’s not a lot of distractions like there usually is,” Roufus said. “A lack of distractions, the simplicity of life, it’s really made us look at things differently. It’s really made things change, [and] it’s the neatest thing I’ve been a part of honestly.”

Roufus describes himself as feeling newly motivated, thanks in large part to his wife, whom refers to as “Wonder Woman” for the way she cared for him as he and Pettis prepared for another trip to the octagon. Though quarantine isn’t ideal for training, Roufus compared their situation to the scene in Goodfellas when Henry Hill and associates end up having a mostly relaxing stint in prison.

Heading into his 33rd fight, Pettis feels refreshed, said Roufus.

“You get an appreciation for your family,” he said. “You get an appreciation for your career, your passion. … He’s always been a grateful guy, but his gratitude has just been even more every day. There’s nothing else going on so when you come to the training every day, you soak it in, you appreciate it.

“It was taken away from us, but getting it back it’s like, ‘Wow.’ His love for what he does is back better than ever. It’s a unique situation, it’s crazy, in a great way.”

Continuing the theme of “what’s old is new again” in regards to Pettis’s training, he and Roufus are facing the challenge of avoiding a letdown against Cerrone, an opponent who Pettis already beat in convincing fashion. Pettis needed less than three minutes to take “Cowboy” out with a devastating body kick at a UFC on FOX show back in January 2013.

Roufus expects to see the same vulnerabilities in Cerrone’s game as before.

“I was kind of the guy who helped expose that [Cerrone] can’t take body shots,” he said. “The other thing is that Donald’s not a good defensive fighter. He’s a very good offensive fighter, but he doesn’t put a lot of work into defensive training, as you’ve seen [in Cerrone’s fights] with Anthony, with Darren Till, with Leon Edwards, with Jorge Masvidal, and with Conor McGregor.”

Pettis has lost three of his previous four fights, which has stalled some of the momentum built from finishes of current welterweight contenders Stephen Thompson and Michael Chiesa. A loss to a man he’s already defeated could put Pettis into a deeper hole, but Roufus likes the odds given that Pettis submitted Benson Henderson to win a UFC title in the only rematch of his career so far.

“This will be Anthony’s second rematch,” Roufus said. “The only other rematch he had was with Benson Henderson, and I like the odds in rematches for him.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting