Anthony Pettis always wanted to be a boxer.
The former UFC lightweight champion eventually became one of the most recognizable fighters in all of MMA, but his original dream involved boxing rather than competing in the octagon. Now Pettis gets to realize that lifelong fantasy when he faces Roy Jones Jr. in the main event of Gamebred Boxing 4 on Saturday from his hometown of Milwaukee.
While he remains under contract with PFL, Pettis says he’s not exactly sure what will happen next, if only because he’s fallen in love with boxing all over again while getting ready to take on the legend Jones Jr. As it stands, nothing about his future has been decided for certain.
“That’s something I’ve got to talk to myself about,” Pettis told MMA Fighting. “I’ve done so much in mixed martial arts. I’ve got a team of guys that I’m building up. Boxing, for sure, I grew up watching Oscar De La Hoya, [Felix] Trinidad. My dad was Puerto Rican, my mom is Mexican, that fight right there is the reason I got into combat sports. All the attention they got, everything around — boxing was what I wanted to do. But for some reason, my mom didn’t want me to box. She wanted me to do taekwondo and kickboxing, which is just as dangerous. So I ended up following that career path and it took me where I am now.
“Now that this opportunity with boxing is in front of me, I’m hiring the right guys, I’m spending the money on the right team, the right sparring partners. Everything I need to do to take this 100-percent serious. I guess I don’t want to look past this fight. I’m fighting a GOAT in his arena. I’m going into the ring, so I can’t go past that. I’m focused on April 1 and we’ll see what comes after that.”
Pettis has invested a lot to ensure he’s not only competitive with Jones, but that he can walk away victorious after facing one of the most talented boxers of the past half-century.
While Jones just turned 54 years old in January, he’s still one of the most accomplished fighters to ever compete in boxing, owning championships across multiple divisions as well as 47 career knockouts across 66 professional wins.
Pettis may have youth on his side, but he still believes he’s taking on a challenge unlike almost any MMA fighter has tried while crossing over to boxing.
“Most of the MMA guys that came over to boxing besides Conor McGregor weren’t fighting top-level boxers,” Pettis said. “I’m coming over and testing myself against one of the greats. It’s huge to get this win. It’s huge for mixed martial arts as a sport, for myself, for my coaches. My coaches have been busted their ass for this.
“I’m not going to go out there and let this fall through my fingers. I’m going to go out there and I think he’ll be surprised by my boxing skill set. I’m not going to go out there and fight like an MMA fighter. I’m going to fight like boxer.”
The fight with Jones actually takes place at heavyweight, which is a far cry from where Pettis usually competes for his MMA career — anywhere between 145 and 170 pounds.
That might seem like a concern, especially going up against someone as experienced as Jones, but Pettis says he was already much bigger when he got offered the fight because he already acknowledged that a return to lightweight just wasn’t in the cards for him.
“After the last season of PFL, I knew I wasn’t going back down to 155,” Pettis revealed. “So I started bulking up, getting ready to either to go 170, not sure exactly what was out there in the mixed martial arts world. So when this fight came about, I was already 205 pounds, in shape, ready for whatever pretty much.”
Pettis knows he’s facing a stiff challenge, especially for somebody making their boxing debut, but he’s done everything possible to make a strong showing against Jones on Saturday. He won’t go as far as guaranteeing victory, but he absolutely has winning on his mind.
“I’m finding the best boxers I can spar with,” Pettis explained. “I’m living in Vegas. I’ve got access to great, great sparring partners here. I’m living this lifestyle. I went and got motivated to box. How can you not fighting one of the GOATs? Y’all must of forgot. That’s one of the things I’ve known since I was a kid.
“I’m taking it serious. I come to win fights and this is a whole different world than I’ve ever been in at this level. The sparring I’m getting is preparing me for it. I’m ready.”