Despite an extended absence from the sport while he crossed over to focus on a boxing career, the former UFC competitor was confident that he was coming back as a much better fighter than the one who last fought in 2019.
The results were proven with his performance as Collard dropped Pettis multiple times during the fight while also showing his own toughness when he had to survive a late comeback attempt from the former UFC champion.
The win was considered an upset by most but don’t count Collard among them.
“I’m sure I’ve mentioned it about a thousand times before that, my time spent boxing only made me a better fighter,” Collard told MMA Fighting. “It’s been a long few years away from mixed martial arts but it’s good to be back. It’s good to be back with a win. I’m just super stoked and I’m ready to keep working.
“I believe I’m one of the deadliest dudes around, especially at 155 pounds. So I’ll get in there with anybody at 155 pounds and throw down. I believe I can do that. I believe I’ve proven I can do that with the best guys in the world now.”
The global pandemic prevented Collard from making his return to action last year but he also benefitted from the time off as it allowed him the chance to sharpen his skills even more before making his first appearance in the PFL cage.
While he was technically returning from a two-year layoff from MMA, Collard didn’t want an easy opponent for his first fight back, which is why he specifically asked for Pettis or two-time PFL champion Natan Schulte right out of the gate.
Obviously, Collard got his wish and he made the most of it.
“I’m a killer. I believe that,” Collard said. “I’ve been trying to make everyone else believe it, too. Like I said, I wanted [Pettis] or the champ [Natan Schulte] first and I wanted to prove that I do belong there. I’m coming to win. It’s my time.
“I’m 28 years old, I’m in my prime. I’m working hard. I’ve got a good team and a good coach and I’m ready to let the world know what’s up. I’m here to scrap. That was everything I wanted out of that fight. To show up and prove that I’m a force to be reckoned with.”
On Thursday night, Collard will make his second appearance in the PFL with a fight scheduled against Joilton Lutterbach, which will then lead into the playoffs taking place later this year.
Pettis is competing on the same card in a fight against Alexander Martinez and obviously he’s hoping to get a win so he can secure his spot in the playoffs as well.
If both fighters make the final four, there’s a good chance Collard could face Pettis again before the year is over and he welcomes that rematch if it happens.
“With how the points system is scored and everything like that, it could very well happen,” Collard said. “He could go out there and kick somebody in the head and be ahead of the game. That’s one of the greatest parts about this whole tournament.
“If we do meet again, I’m going to be ready to bring it. If we don’t, I’m going to be ready to bring it and beat somebody else up. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is.”
Because Pettis was such a high profile signing for the PFL, Collard has received a lot of attention for the win against him but he knows that’s only one piece of the puzzle completed as he seeks to win the PFL lightweight title and take home the $1 million prize at the end of the season.
Collard might even be considered the favorite now to win the championship, which also means he’s going to have a rather large target on his back moving forward.
That might seem like a daunting position for some but Collard welcomes anybody and everybody in the PFL lightweight division to take aim at him and give it their best shot.
“I believed I was the finalist even before the tournament started,” Collard said. “I signed with the PFL to win the whole thing. I didn’t sign to play a part.
“If people want to target me and think I’m the guy to beat, I am the guy to beat. Let’s go. Bring it on.”