Anthony Pettis will once again try to reinvent himself in a different weight class later this evening (Sat., Mar. 23, 2019) at UFC on ESPN+ 6 live on ESPN+ from inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, when he squares off with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in a welterweight main event.
The former UFC lightweight champion has been all over the map over the past few years. An unlucky run at 155 pounds forced “Showtime” to briefly move down to featherweight and challenge Max Holloway for the interim title. After that loss to “Blessed,” Pettis moved back up to lightweight where he turned in a 2-2 record, losing to top contenders Dustin Poirier and Tony Ferguson.
Now, with Pettis’ back against the proverbial wall, he’ll try to return to his winning ways at 170 pounds. The 32-year-old fighter has yet to step inside of the cage as a welterweight, but his weight cut for UFC Nashville has been night and day compared to his previous trek down to 145 pounds.
“At 45, I was really, really bad,” Pettis told MMA Fighting. “I only did it for the title. I thought, if I could be champ in another division, let’s do it. But that was really rough on my body, man. It probably took me a couple months before I could even like digest my food right. When I ate, I just felt like I was in a constant constipated state. I couldn’t like digest my food. It just held everything. I was just looking fat, looking chubby. I’m not usually a fat dude. I think that weight cut just hurt my body.”
While most people would think that Pettis is better suited for the lightweight ranks, that’s not necessarily the case. Pettis’ head coach, Duke Roufus, is already not a fan of big weight cuts, so when “Showtime” came to him with the idea of moving up to welterweight the decision was made pretty easily.
“I already know the skill level is there,” Pettis said. “I just gotta get that energy back to where it’s supposed to be at. I think the weight cut has a lot to do with it. I told Duke I wanted to fight at 170, we looked at the roster. ‘Wonderboy’ made sense. Ranked No. 4 in the world. If I’m gonna try it, I might as well do it right.”
Even though Pettis has proven to be one of the best strikers in MMA over the years, he may be biting off more than he can chew against “Wonderboy.” Thompson has not only fought for a title at the welterweight level, but he’s used to getting past bigger and stronger foe with deceptive speed and range control.
Fortunately for Pettis, he feels like he’s already been exposed to everything Thompson might throw at him.
“I just feel like there’s not much he can do to me,” Pettis said. “The side kicks, the round kicks, I’ve seen that so many times. He’s gonna throw straight punches and try to get my head to lean back for the traditional round kick. It’s offspeed, that’s why it throws all these kickboxers off. No one throws those kind of kicks in sparring, because it’s kickboxers usually sparring with us.”
Pettis revealed that his move to welterweight isn’t a permanent career change, but one that needed to happen given the opponent and opportunity at hand. That is the kind of fighter UFC likes to work with and it gives “Showtime” the chance to regain considerable momentum heading into 2019.
“I got ready for a fight this camp,” Pettis said. “I didn’t get ready for a weight cut. The results will show.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 148 fight card, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.