The last few months for Anthony Pettis have been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride of emotions. First, the former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran was set to challenge current UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo at UFC 163.
A few short weeks later, after having his campaign for a fight against current UFC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson shot down by company president Dana White, Anthony's frown was turned upside down when he was pegged as "Smooth's" new opponent at UFC 164 in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, thanks to an untimely concussion from T.J. Grant.
Something Pettis says was a simple twist of fate, as he explained on his recent appearance on "The MMA Hour:"
"My phone was inside Duke's house, I didn't even know I had four missed calls from Dana, four missed calls from Mike, so they called Duke's phone. So Duke turns to me with a big smile and he's like, ‘You want fight in Milwaukee?' I didn't think twice, I was like, ‘Hell yeah, send me the contract!' He's like, ‘It's Ben Henderson.' I couldn't even believe it. I was about to eat a big plate of food, about to hang with my friends, enjoy the summer and then all of a sudden I had to do a six mile run to my dad's grave with my little brother; and it was one of those moments where I was like, everything happens for a reason. I went from feeling down to just excited to go train. Everything I want is right here."
"Me and Serg made the run to my dad's grave and thanked him for the opportunity man. The way this played out, some higher power had to lay this in front of me, it just doesn't happen like this. For me to get injured and then get a fight in five weeks in my hometown against a guy I already beat and for the title, it just doesn't happen that way."
Pettis declared that he doesn't have any hard feelings toward Benson, who waits for him at BMO Harris Bradley Center on Aug. 31, 2013, labeling him a "good guy" and champion. He's just very confident he has what it takes to defeat him.
"He's a way different fighter than the WEC days, but I am too. It's not like I'm the same Anthony Pettis he fought in Arizona. My last few fights, people only got to see me perform for like two minutes, so no one really knows how much I evolved as a fighter. I'm excited to go out there and see what I've been working on. I've seen him play around with his striking a bit more, he's more polished with his striking. His intensity has picked up a bit, too, he is more intense. He's a good guy, a good fighter and he's the champ for a reason. It's my job to go in there and beat him. No personal issue on my end. The last time we fought, I walked out of there with a smile, so not on my end at all."
And while Pettis already has a victory over Henderson in his back pocket for bragging rights, a classic 25-minute war at WEC 53, "Showtime" knows Benson has improved drastically over the past two years.
But then again, so has he.