With the chance to fight for UFC gold once again within Anthony "Showtime" Pettis' reach, he knows that unlike in his fight with Clay "The Carpenter" Guida, he’ll need to seize his opportunity against Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone at UFC on Fox 6 on Jan. 26.
In Pettis' first bona fide chance to get a crack at the UFC lightweight belt, The Carpenter used his wrestling prowess to control and ultimately impede the rise of Showtime, the last man to serve UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson a setback.
But if all goes accordingly for Pettis in his pivotal clash with Cerrone, UFC President Dana White may not have the option to deny the Roufusport co-owner the right to square off for the lightweight belt in his next fight.
Assuming he can produce a convincing win over Cerrone, the Milwaukee native will almost surely leapfrog a handful of upper-echelon contenders, all of whom aspire to tangle the winner of the Henderson/Gilbert Melendez tilt in April.
Weeks before White confirmed the Melendez/Henderson bout, and during an interview with MMA Weekly Radio Show host Damon Martin, Pettis sounded off on his goals and his trajectory in the lightweight division.
I’m to the point where I’ve just got to prove it. I’m gonna line ‘em up and I’m gonna knock ‘em down, and get to that title shot. That’s the ultimate goal, but right now it’s winning fights. I need to focus on my next opponent in front of me, (and) win these fights.
Animosity began brewing between Pettis and Cerrone in August when Cowboy arbitrarily insulted Showtime during an interview with Lowkick’s Tim Burke.
Just eight days before his fight with Melvin Guillard, and while Pettis was recovering from shoulder surgery, Cerrone offered these sentiments to Burke:
“Anthony Pettis’ b**** ass! Anthony, quit hiding behind your sore shoulder and come to the dance.”
While the two fighters harbor sincere hostility toward one another, Pettis admitted to Martin that he believes a win over Cerrone will catapult his stock more than a win over Gray Maynard, Jim Miller, Guida or Melendez would.
If you look at all the guys you mentioned, and what competition they’re fighting, (then) me and Cowboy are fighting the hardest competition. We’re in the UFC with the best of the best. We’re in the trenches. Me and Cowboy, I feel, are right at the top. The winner of this fight should be the next in line for a title shot and I’ve been training my ass off to make that me.
Pettis and Cerrone have soared to such great heights in their young careers by utilizing comparable tools and similarly intricate strategic approaches. Each fighter possesses unorthodox and unpredictable striking and submission abilities, and Pettis and Cerrone each have unmistakable killer instincts.
It’s also safe to assume that both Showtime and Cowboy aspire to become better functional MMA wrestlers.
But for a bout that appears so even on paper, Pettis may be at a slight disadvantage because of his lack of recent cage time. While Cerrone has scrapped seven times in the UFC since leaving the WEC in 2010, including twice last year, Pettis has fought only three times, with just one of those bouts coming in 2012.
Long layoff aside, Pettis confidently assured Martin that ring rust won't affect his performance against Cerrone.
Just wait until Chicago. I’m just ready to get back in there man. I’ve got so much stuff going through my mind that I just want to unleash everything. No more mister nice guy. I tried to play that role. The title shot’s going to come; I’m going to sit and wait for it. I’m taking it this time. I’m going to get my title shot and I’m going to get the respect I deserve.
In the most impressive performance of his career, Pettis outshined "Bendo" in virtually every facet of the game en route to a unanimous decision win and the WEC lightweight belt in December 2010. Showtime outstruck Henderson 130-97 and stuffed seven of Bendo's 10 takedown attempts.
Pettis also landed both takedowns he attempted, reversed Bendo twice, attempted four submissions, and passed Henderson's guard four times.
He’s (Henderson) motivated man. He looks like he’s out there and he’s hungry. He’s not getting relaxed, and he’s going for it. But I don’t think he’s unbeatable. I’m the last guy to beat him, (and) I feel I got the skills to get in there and do it again, so I’m motivated to get to that chance.