In just a few hours, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will go live from BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc., visiting the city for the second time in its history tonight (Aug. 31, 2013) for UFC 164: "Henderson vs. Pettis 2."
Current UFC Lightweight champion will try to avenge his only to the challenger, as "Smooth" Ben Henderson will take on "Showtime" Anthony Pettis. The two first met at World Extreme Cagefighting's swan song, WEC 53, with Pettis outlasting "Bendo" for five rounds, capturing his first major title without being able to defend it and lost his next fight.
Henderson is currently on a seven-fight undefeated streak since that loss, with three successful title defenses. Pettis is 3-1 in his UFC career, with only one loss in his last eight fights.
The most memorable aspect of their first meeting was Pettis' "Showtime Kick," as he jumped off the cage with his right leg and hit "Smooth" flush on the jaw with a headkick in the air (coming from the same leg). Henderson would love nothing more than to erase that from his memory and get revenge against the man who stole his title away from him almost three years ago.
The rematch now happens three years later in Pettis' hometown of Milwaukee, Wisc., which is also home to where he trains with Duke Rufous at his Roufusport camp.
Will the pressure work for or against Pettis?
As both men finished off a week of media appearances and successfully made weight yesterday at the weigh-ins (see staredown pic here), it is time for their "Last Words," before the time for talking is done and the fists start to fly.
Here we go!
MMAFighting.com and FOX Sports 1 correspondent Ariel Helwani caught up with both the champion and the challenger after their post-fight press conference on Wednesday to get a few words from both fighters about their opponent.
Helwani asked Pettis several questions, including fighting in his hometown of Milwaukee and his recent knee injury.
On the pressure and attention he is attracting for himself and if it gets to him:
"Actually, no. With the UFC that happened Wednesday, a lot got crossed off the calendar. We didn't have to do as much press to hype this fight up, they did it for us. I'm just cutting weight, hanging out with my crew -- it feels good to fight at home."
On coming back from his injury too soon it or if he is healthy right now:
"100 percent healthy. I've been training since February for this fight, longest camp I've had in my life. From dieting, to going down to 145 (pounds), to bulking back up to 155 (pounds), there's been a lot of different changes in this fight -- I'm just super motivated and amped. The knee is not an issue; I don't even think about the knee anymore. It's going to be a good fight."
Helwani then caught up with "Smooth" to talk about his loss in the first fight, along with his comments in the commercials promoting the fight.
On how he approaches the rematch as just another fight:
"There's always a new scenario behind a fight. You guys and the media are always going to play it up with your angles -- I'm going to do the same thing I always do. So while there's always new circumstances behind a fight and the media's going to play it up no matter how you want to play it up but a fight's a fight, that's what it boils down to."
On his quote in the pre-fight commercials being accurate ("stain off my soul"):
"That was actually taken out of context. That was taken before the Mark Bocek fight. I was saying how my next fight needs to help me erase that loss. Every time you lose, you always want to get back into the Octagon right away. But you know, the media guys at the UFC felt it was a good sound byte to use for the commercial, and that's cool -- hopefully it hypes the fight and sells a ton of pay-per-views and all that."
Joe Rogan caught up with both main event competitions immediately after they hit the scales at the weigh-ins. First up was the challenger, "Showtime."
On the opportunity to be fighting in his hometown of Milwaukee:
"It's been five years since I've fought here. I'm fighting for for the belt -- It's going to be a better place to do it."
Next was the champion, who looked more intense than usual, complete with a stinging stare without taking his eyes off the challenger for one second.
On fighting in hostile territory in a fight he has wanted for a long time:
"I'm ready for it, guys. Some guys like to talk the talk and talk up all they want. I'm not much of a talker. I can go in there, inside the Octagon and let my actions do my talking for me so that's what I ‘m going to do tomorrow night."
UFC On FOX Weigh-In Show
Helwani got one last chance to speak to Henderson at the end of the weigh-ins and focused on the revenge aspect of the fight, as well as the comments made by Pettis' coach about the comments he has made about him as of late.
On being more excited with avenging the loss or getting to fight him to erase the memory of the "Showtime Kick:"
"Revenge, whatever you want to call it, however you want to word it -- it is what it is. I've been waiting a while to get my hands on him, that's all I want."
On Duke Roufus' comments about Henderson's striking being worse than their first fight:
"Cool -- you're entitled to your opinion. He seems to have all sorts of opinions about a lot of topics so it is what it is. Come Saturday night, we'll see what he's saying."
On seizing the moment by fighting in his opponent's hometown:
"It's cool, I definitely dig it. It's not a big thing for me at all. I guess I'm used to it, maybe. My first UFC ever was in front of 55,000 people all wanting to beat me up so from there, it's all kind of cake."
Pettis, on the other hand, was asked a few questions by the Fox Sports panel which include Karyn Bryant, Chael Sonnen and Kenny Florian. He was asked numerous questions, from his "Showtime Kick" to his chances of beating the champion twice, with the possibility of taking his title away yet again.
On how he sees his "Showtime Kick" and how it is resonated within the MMA community:
"I'm definitely proud of it. The time I threw it, the last round of a title fight -- I mean it was an amazing kick, definitely won me the fight and now I get to prove that's not what I'm all about. I have so much more skills, I've worked on so much more stuff, and I want to showcase that come tomorrow night."
On if winning the first fight gives him an edge in the rematch:
"I know I'm in his head. I know he's watching this just like I'm watching this, he's seen the kick thrown a million times. It wasn't just the kick either -- he likes to stay out of range, I own that range. He doesn't like to get hit a lot, he doesn't like to get in exchanges. His biggest things are going to be the takedowns. So if I could stop the takedowns, keep my range, I think I should have this fight."
On his coaches comments of his opponent's striking being a sincere statement or just bait:
"I'd say it's a little bit of both. I wouldn't say Benson Henderson is the most skilled striker, he's not very technical but he makes up with athleticism. He's very athletic, he could hit you from far away and he's very fast -- I've fought him already; I've felt everything he has."
The time for talking is, finally, all over.
Remember, MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 164 card on fight night (Sat., Aug. 31, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to being at 6:30 p.m. ET, right on through the Fox Sports 1-televised undercard bout at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to being at 10 p.m. ET.