Anthony Pettis wants to have it all in 2023.
The former UFC lightweight champion is scheduled to fight boxing legend Roy Jones Jr. at Jorge Masvidal’s Gamebred Boxing 4 on April 1 in his hometown of Milwaukee and if all goes according to plan, he’ll return to the PFL later this year to compete on an upcoming pay-per-view card.
Pettis appeared on The MMA Hour on Wednesday to explain how the unique situation came about.
“An opportunity like that pops up once in a lifetime,” Pettis said. “I was honestly getting ready for the PFL at 170 pounds, then this popped up and it kind of just changed my whole year around. Jorge’s been doing the boxing thing and he hasn’t done a card of this caliber yet.
“Dean Toole, he’s a partner in Jorge’s thing, he’s been reaching out and just putting feelers out there and at the time I thought he was just playing around. I’m like, ‘I’m up for whatever. If you can get some names, I’m ready to box.’ I’ve been boxing with Jorge Capetillo for the last two years out here in Vegas and [Toole] started bringing my names my way. I’m talking about some big names and I’m like, there’s no way you can get these guys to agree to this. He pulled up Roy Jones Jr. and had a bout contract ready to go. It’s amazing to see how this came together in my hometown and that fighters have options now. There’s a lot of opportunity out there in the fight world.”
According to Pettis, several other notable names were discussed, including two-time UFC opponent Donald Cerrone, Paul Daley, Mike Perry, and another boxing legend, Felix Trinidad. Pettis was celebrating his birthday in Cabo San Luca, Mexico, when the contract to fight Jones was sent his way and he couldn’t believe it.
Making the situation even sweeter is that Pettis’ pay surpasses the lucrative deal he’s had with the PFL for the past two seasons.
“It’s amazing,” Pettis said. “I was surprised to see the check. It made me not sign my PFL contract and we know my PFL contract was awesome. Great money. Enough for me to go fight Roy Jones Jr. in my professional debut as a boxer.”
Pettis steps into the boxing ring for the first time as he enters the 16th year of his pro fighting career. The 36-year-old booked his first MMA fight in 2007, becoming a champion in the WEC and the UFC before parting ways with the UFC in 2020. His PFL career has gone poorly as he’s won just one of five fights in the SmartCage.
Despite those struggles, Pettis planned to make another run at a league tournament title and a $1 million prize, but when the offer to fight Jones came long it made more sense for him to opt for the pay-per-view format that the league is continuing this year after holding its first this past November.
“I am with the PFL,” Pettis said. “I’ll be fighting on their pay-per-view format. I’m not going to do the season format this year. The last two years, the season format is rough. It’s a really hard format for somebody like myself. You’ve got to be in the trenches. It’s kind of like The Ultimate Fighter. You’ve got to be on weight every five weeks, three or four fights on a row, you’ve got the point system, it’s a really hard format.
“I met with the team, they presented a couple of options to me and initially I was going to do a tournament at 170 and then this fight came about and just changed the rest of the year.”
Pettis also confirmed that he will not be fighting at a weight lighter than 170 pounds going forward. For his match with Jones, a four-division champion in boxing, he expects to weigh in around 198 pounds.
Though Pettis has never competed near that weight before, he’s excited about extreme weight cuts being a thing of the past.
“Obviously, I’m training at a higher weight class now, I feel good at this weight class, I feel healthy not depleting myself,” Pettis said. “This is my first time doing a full training camp without having to do that big-ass weight cut. Even at ‘70 I was cutting weight to get down to 170 pounds. So I’m going to try this for the first time at a higher weight class and against one of the greatest of all time. It makes me excited to wake up and train, it makes me excited to go to the gym and put this together.”
At 36, Pettis is 18 years younger than the 54-year-old Jones, but that age gap isn’t making Pettis take this marquee matchup lightly. Jones’ last pro fight took place in 2018 — a unanimous decision win over Scott Sigmon — and he later fought Mike Tyson in an exhibition bout in 2020.
Pettis sees Jones’ experience and expertise matching up well with his own youth and athleticism.
“He’s dangerous,” Pettis said. “Especially with how much knowledge he has in boxing. It’s eight rounds, it’s something I’ve never done before. There’s a reason why he agreed to this fight.
“I’m 36, I’m just coming out of my prime in mixed martial arts, so it’s a dangerous fight for him to agree to, but I’m a 170-pounder. There’s a lot of favors in his position, so I’ve got to work for this one. This is a real fight for me, and I plan on trying to win this fight.”