NAFC Owner Duke Roufus: 'I Want Sergio Pettis to Be Sergio Pettis'
A little over two weeks ago, RFA 7 planned to feature undefeated Sergio "The Phenom" Pettis against Matt Manzanares, while Leandro Silva planned on facing Brandon "Ruckus" Thatch in the event's headliner, but when a leg infection plagued Silva, plans changed.
Then-undefeated Mike Rhodes, who actually looked forward to fighting at NAFC: Battleground, which emanates live from Milwaukee's Potawatomi Bingo Casino tonight, would replace Silva while enjoying the chance to share a card with Pettis.
However, injury struck Manzanares days later, and RFA officials could not find a replacement for him, so they allowed Pettis to top the "Battleground" card opposite Josh Robinson. Robinson, currently riding a two-fight losing streak, defeated Pettis' teammate, highly touted flyweight Dustin Ortiz in May 2012.
For Roufusport head trainer and NAFC owner Duke Roufus, RFA president Ed Soares' decision to let Pettis fight on this card proved the right one, given Pettis' stance.
"They understand Sergio's stance, that he wanted to fight as soon as possible," Roufus told Bleacher Report MMA in an exclusive interview, "so they were very generous to let him fight outside the organization and stay busy."
RFA officials brought the issue of Manzanares' injury to the attention of Roufus and Pettis before news of the change spread, but the infection to Silva caused the pieces to fall into place for Pettis, as well as teammate Rhodes.
"Unfortunately, they couldn't get anyone for [Sergio's] fight on TV; at the same time they lost [Leandro], and everything just seemed to work itself out," Roufus said.
"Obviously Sergio would love to fight on TV, but luckily, he's a 19-year-old kid who's got many years ahead of him."
Robinson may fight with an almost .500 record, but don't let his record fool you. Robinson owns the majority of his pro triumphs by submission and his skill set brings more danger to Pettis than most may think.
"The cool thing [about Josh], he's going to probably choose to stand and kick-box with Sergio," Roufus said of Robinson, who vocalized his desire to knock Pettis out.
Roufus will note that while Sergio's older brother and current UFC featherweight title contender Anthony "Showtime" Pettis fights with more flamboyance and flash, Sergio brings a game that, at only 19, proves technically sound every time fight night rolls around.
However, when it comes to both the talks of Sergio in the UFC, as well as the wonders of how he will break out as his own body in his own pro career, Roufus won't worry too much about how quickly Sergio joins the UFC's flyweight class because he knows the time will come when Dana White and Co. come calling.
Right now, Roufus only wishes for the already-developed Sergio to progress further as himself and not worry about trying to emulate Anthony.
"Right now, he's still 'Anthony Pettis' brother,'" Roufus said, "and I'm helping to coach him through that, don't get caught up in the pressure; you have to perform because you're trying to be 'Showtime'. When have you done a Showtime Kick? I want Sergio to be Sergio, and Anthony to be Anthony."
The undefeated prospect will have the opportunity to break out further into his own tonight when he and Robinson square off.
Unquestionably, Sergio represents a breed like none other, and with an improvement to 7-0, few will doubt that his breed shines in a much different light than that of his older brother.
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