There was little doubt following Anthony Pettis' first-round knockout over Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone back in January that he was the new No. 1 contender in the lightweight division.
The victory marked his second straight knockout win in a row (the first came over Joe Lauzon in 2012), and with Pettis already holding a win over UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, everything seemed in place for his title shot.
That was until in an unexpected move, Pettis offered to move down to the featherweight division and face champion Jose Aldo. At the time, Pettis was concerned about how long he'd have to wait to fight Henderson and thought a bout against Aldo would be something the UFC and the fans would get behind.
It didn't take UFC president Dana White long to make the call, and just days later, Pettis had his fight with Aldo for the UFC featherweight title.
Now with a few months to go until August, when he'll step into the cage with Aldo in his home country of Brazil as the main event at UFC 163, Pettis is still excited about the fight, but he wants to make it clear that this move to 145 pounds was all about this matchup and not to pick up the UFC title.
"Aldo's name is what intrigues me. He's the champ, but his name, he's one of the pound-for-pound best in the world around my weight class," Pettis said in a recent interview with Bleacher Report. "So that's why this fight is so intriguing to me."
To prepare for Aldo and the featherweight division, Pettis will do a test weight cut down to 145 pounds in about a week to see how his body reacts to the extra 10 pounds he'll need to shed. Pettis says he's not too worried about the weight but wants to test things out just to see how he feels.
Assuming everything goes well, Pettis will then begin his full training camp to get ready for the showdown with Aldo in August.
The fight with the UFC's top featherweight also gives Pettis the chance to face another top-level striker, something he says he's not really had since signing to the WEC back in 2009.
"My whole career I've been fighting wrestlers," Pettis stated. "If you look back, all of my fights have been against wrestlers. Give me some strikers in front of me and you see how I perform. Another great reason why I chose to fight Aldo: He's a great fighter, he's a stand-up guy and he's going to test me."
As elated as he is to face an elite stand-up fighter, Pettis was quick to point out, however, that as good as Aldo is, he won't be able to hang with the former WEC champion once the fists and feet start flying.
"I feel like my stand-up's something he's never seen," Pettis said. "He's not going to be able to find training partners that can do what I do. I'm used to the leg kicks. I've been kicked there since I was five, so I feel like my range is longer than him. I'm bigger than him, I can match him in speed and power and I've got a style like nobody else’s."
If the fight with Aldo goes well, Pettis has made no bones about his desire to eventually move back to the lightweight division and settle things with Henderson in that division as well. For now, his focus can only be on Aldo, but there is no denying he will be a lightweight again one day.
"Aldo's in my way, I can't really think about 'let's move back to 55.' Let's see what happens at 45 first and then I'll make my decision from there," Pettis stated. "155 is my home. I've got a guy like Aldo in front of me, that's enough for me to focus on. Jose Aldo is next and that's all I'm focusing on."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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