Anthony Pettis thought he’d seen it all.
As a former UFC champion with more than 30 fights on his record, Pettis was excited for a change when he signed with the PFL. But losses in his first two fights of the 2021 season bounced him from the playoffs for the title and the $1 million prize.
After picking up his first win in 2022 — an opening-round submission over Myles Price in May — Pettis admitted that he absolutely took the wrong approach when he first joined the PFL roster last year.
“It’s totally different from anything I’ve ever experienced,” Pettis told MMA Fighting. “For my UFC and WEC career, all my other fights, I would have the fight, have a hard training camp and then have as much time off as I needed to recover and have another fight. This format, that’s not the case.
“I fight June 24, and I fight again August 5. That’s like six weeks between fights. You’ve got to take that into consideration. Like I can’t go have a war on June 24 and be 100 percent for Aug. 5. So you’ve got to take care of your body. You’ve got to make sure you’re approaching these fights the smartest way possible as opposed to going out there and have a war and be entertaining. I’m always entertaining, but I’m not forcing the entertainment aspect of it. I’m focused on the win and getting these points.”
Pettis doesn’t discount his UFC experience, but he feels like the PFL season is a wholly different kind of challenge. With a season-long format that can result in four fights in just six months, Pettis learned rather quickly that he couldn’t look at his career in the PFL under the same lens as he did his time in the UFC.
“At least when you had a UFC fight, you could bust your ass in training camp, have the fight and take as much time off as you needed until you’re ready for the next one,” Pettis said about the PFL. “This format, you’re forced to fight right away. I like it. It’s keeping me busy, especially at this point in my career. I like to stay busy.
“I think last year with the COVID protocols, we had to leave three weeks before the fight. We were stuck in a bubble for three weeks, in between both fights, it just felt like a lot of time away. I was bouncing back and forth between Milwaukee and Vegas for my training camps back then, and now I’m 100 percent out here in Vegas. I bring my team out here. I feel a lot more comfortable in this format of training now.”
Pettis also scoffs at the idea that he’s facing inferior competition in the PFL because he’s no longer in the UFC. He can attest to that from his own experience after spending time in both.
If anything, Pettis believes it’s more about perception and marketing than actual reality when comparing talent across all the different organizations.
“There’s top-level guys outside of PFL and UFC and Bellator that just hasn’t got their shot yet,” Pettis said. “I see it all the time. Now that I’m in the management side of it, I see the guys I’m pursuing and trying to see – there’s talent everywhere. I think what it is, the UFC probably does one of the best jobs promoting their brand. The UFC is everywhere. They really focus on promoting the UFC. So the common fans are really like if you’re a fighter, you must be in the UFC, or the UFC has the best guys. Talent-wise, that’s just not the case.
“There’s good guys everywhere. There’s no more easy fights in mixed martial arts. There’s no more practitioners that are just good at one thing. Everybody’s well-rounded, everybody wants to win, and you put a million dollars on the line, you’re getting the best of everybody.”