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Anthony Pettis not living off UFC fame as he starts his PFL career: ‘Everything I’ve done in the past doesn’t matter right now’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

On the day Anthony Pettis signed with the PFL, he immediately became one of the most recognizable names on the entire roster.

As a former UFC lightweight champion, who has headlined pay-per-views and events airing on network television for the past decade, he has a household name with fight fans. Pettis commanded attention whenever he fought and he knows that’s going to remain the case now that he’s competing for a different promotion for the first time since the UFC absorbed the WEC back in 2010.

While some fighters shy away from the spotlight, Pettis has always embraced it and he has no problem that the PFL will be relying on him to serve as one of the faces of the organization.

“I love it. That’s my nickname ‘Showtime’ for a reason,” Pettis told MMA Fighting. “When the lights come on, I get into character. Putting all that pressure on myself, I’m pulling back from that. Letting my coaches scout out all these guys cause if I go in there and try to scout out 10 guys right now, I’m going to go crazy at night.

“So I got the first name [Clay Collard], I know who I’m fighting first. We can start preparing for that style of matchup but I’m going to have fun with it. That’s what I’m going to do. This part of my career, I’ve fought the big names. I’ve been in main events. I’ve been on the big cards. So I feel like it’s nothing new to me.”

As easy as it would be for Pettis to try and skate by on his past fame, the 34-year-old veteran isn’t trying to hold his celebrity over anybody’s head in the PFL.

In fact, Pettis knows that because he carries a certain level of name value coming into the organization that every other lightweight is going to be gunning to take his head off so they can add a former UFC champion to their resume.

For that reason alone, Pettis isn’t spending much time talking about his biggest wins or even his most recent performances because none of that will help him get a win in his PFL debut on Friday night.

“You’re only as good as your last fight in this sport,” Pettis said. “Everything I’ve done in the past doesn’t matter right now. I’m going into this new tournament style set up so it’s entertaining for me coming from that aspect but at the same time I do have something to prove and go out there and get these big wins and fun entertaining knockouts.

“But I’m not going to put pressure on myself. That’s how I fight already. In the gym, I’m having fun, I’m flowing.”

In his first fight to kick off the PFL season, Pettis will face off with fellow UFC veteran Clay Collard, who will be making his return to the cage after spending the last couple of years focused primarily on the sport of boxing where he’s amassed an impressive record.

The matchup will pit two of the best strikers in the PFL lightweight division against each other and while Pettis is more than happy to show off his grappling chops, even he’s excited for the prospect of testing Collard on the feet.

“I think it’s a great matchup for me,” Pettis said. “Obviously, I love the stand-up pace and I’m a kicker, he’s a boxer so I think it’s going to be a good fight. I’m excited to see what it feels like to be in a different octagon — a different cage, I’m so used to calling it an octagon.

“I think it’s going to be fun fight obviously. When you’ve got a guy who’s got hands like that, you know what he’s looking to do. You know my style, I love staying on the feet. It makes for an entertaining matchup for the first round.”

After taking 2020 off due to the global pandemic, the PFL is looking to regain momentum starting with the card on April 23 and headlining the first card with Pettis seemed like an easy decision.

As much as Pettis isn’t getting lost in the attention being paid to him, he’s ready to put the promotion on his back and shoulder whatever burden is needed of him as he starts the second phase of his career.

“I love it. I think I’m the perfect guy for it,” Pettis said. “My fighting style is very entertaining. I’m going to get out there and promote the heck out of this fight and it feels like the old days kind of, the WEC days, when nobody really knew about the fights and they’re on Wednesday nights and it was like a different vibe. I feel like this, I wouldn’t say it’s a similar process, but it reminds me of that.”