Anthony Pettis Should Drop to 145, Face Jose Aldo for Featherweight Title

Jeremy BotterMMA Senior WriterMarch 7, 2012

Anthony Pettis
Anthony Pettis

Anthony Pettis has the worst luck.

After beating Benson Henderson to capture the lightweight title in the final WEC event, Pettis was promised a title shot against the winner of the Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard bout that was scheduled for UFC 125. Pettis had all the momentum in the world, stemming from a highlight-reel "Showtime Kick" that turned him from complete unknown into an overnight fighting sensation. 

But after Edgar and Maynard fought to a closely-contested draw, Pettis was left out in the cold, his title shot vanishing into thin air when Maynard was granted an immediate rematch. Pettis chose to face Clay Guida instead of sitting on the sidelines. He was young and had plenty of time left for title shots, so he didn't see the point in waiting around to face the winner of Edgar and Maynard.

Pettis lost to Guida and was sent to the back of the line. And instead of fighting for the UFC title, he watched the man he dethroned at WEC 53 rack up three straight victories and earn a title shot in the process. He watched from his locker room backstage at UFC 144 while Henderson captured the UFC lightweight title.

All was well in Pettis' world, though. UFC president Dana White announced after the event that Pettis would "probably" get the title shot, and the world would see a rematch of one of 2010's most exciting fights. The WEC's two best lightweights would square off for the biggest prize in the game. 

And then everything changed. Edgar successfully campaigned for a rematch, hanging Pettis out to dry once more. If Pettis wants a shot at the UFC lightweight belt, he'll have to wait until late 2012 or early 2013. Henderson and Edgar won't roll it back until the summertime, likely July, and the winner of May's UFC on FOX 3 main event between Jim Miller and Nate Diaz has been promised the next shot at the belt.

All of this leaves Pettis in a familiar situation: He can wait on the sidelines for up to a year if he wants the title shot, or he can take fights in the meantime and risk losing his title shot.

I'd like to propose something different; I think it's a great idea, and you will too.

Pettis should drop to featherweight and challenge Jose Aldo for his championship.

It makes perfect sense, as Aldo is lacking the kind of big-name challenger he desperately needs. Hatsu Hioki might be a legitimate contender, but you'd be hard-pressed to find many fans that would be interested in seeing him take on Aldo.

Pettis fits the bill, though. Dana White wanted Edgar to drop down and take on Aldo, because it would create a new level of interest in the featherweight division. Pettis would accomplish the same goals. The stylistic matchup between him and Aldo would almost certainly make for an incredibly exciting fight.

Pettis has the perfect frame for 145. He isn't a gigantic lightweight, and while the cut to featherweight would be much more difficult than his current cut to lightweight, it's doable. After all, if Kenny Florian can make featherweight, just about anyone can.

It would also alleviate some of the logjam at the top of the lightweight division. It's a good thing that the UFC has so many potential lightweight title challengers, but it's a bad thing when deserving contenders are left risking title shots against competition of lesser stature simply because there are too many contenders.

Most importantly, it keeps Pettis in the spotlight. "Showtime" could be a true superstar for the UFC if he's afforded the right opportunities, but it'll be very difficult for him to reach that level if he's continuously forced to wait on the sidelines.

And while I like the idea of Pettis going to Strikeforce to challenge Gilbert Melendez, I'm also aware that there's very little chance that the UFC will take the risk of having one of their top lightweights lose to a Strikeforce fighter.

Melendez is deserving of the best challengers the UFC can throw at him, but I can't imagine that many current UFC lightweights—especially ones near the top of the division—will be all that enthused by the idea of fighting in Strikeforce instead of the UFC.

The timing is right, and it's a great opportunity for Pettis. The UFC needs to make this happen.