By most accounts, when Anthony Pettis defeated Benson Henderson to claim the lightweight title at UFC 164, the final puzzle piece fell into place for a “Superfight” with Jose Aldo.
The last time this fight was in the works, there was something missing: a second title belt.
Now, Pettis has the lightweight belt, and his calling out of Aldo seemed to be exactly what every Superfight fan has been waiting for.
After all, without another belt on the line, a fight between Aldo and Pettis would be nothing more than just another title fight. But in his willingness to bring the lightweight title into the mix, Pettis isn’t just a challenger, he’s a champion wanting to face another champion.
Obviously, from a purely technical standpoint, a bout between Aldo and Pettis makes the mouth water.
Both fighters are young, explosive and love to stand and trade—and they are both damn good at the standing and trading.
In addition, both men are on the same kind of recovery timetable. Aldo broke his foot against Chan Sung Jung earlier this month and Pettis suffered a knee injury in his title winning effort against Henderson.
Many may rightly say that the time is now to make this Superfight happen, given all these reasons.
They think that after both men recover, the fight should be booked before random probability rears its ugly head and throws a monkey wrench into the whole damn thing.
And they have some good reasons to think this.
After all, a Superfight is all about timing. The longer a fight sits needlessly on the shelf, the quicker it looses its luster.
Important fights need to happen when both fighters are near their peaks, and right now, Aldo and Pettis are both in their prime. Both Aldo and Pettis are 26 years old, both are champions and both have the kind of exciting styles that are damn near guaranteed to bring some veritable fireworks.
But there is a bit more that needs to happen before this fight becomes a “Superfight.”
In his victory at UFC 164, Pettis was a headliner under the UFC banner for the very first time and he made the most of it. He dispatched Henderson inside of the first round, and therein we find part of the problem: he was on stage less than five minutes.
The majority of the viewing populace—the ones that buy the pay-per-views in the numbers required to make a fight a “Superfight”—don’t know Pettis well enough just yet.
Aldo, for his part, has been in the headliner slot four times in the UFC, but only two of those bouts were in America; decision wins against Kenny Florian and Frankie Edgar.
Both men are far greater than their limited popularity would indicate. But they need more exposure, in a big way.
In the early part of their careers, Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns almost met before their bout in 1981.
Both men were clearly head and shoulders above all the rest, but Leonard’s trainer, Angelo Dundee, knew the time wasn’t right. He knew a fight between Leonard and Hearns could be huge, but only after both men endeared the hearts of fight fans on a broader scale.
When Georges St-Pierre met BJ Penn for the second time, both fighters were well known.
St-Pierre had been in the headlining position for five UFC events before he tangled with Penn the second time and had fought a total of 13 times before in the UFC. Penn had headlined five UFC events as well (13 total for the UFC) in addition to being a coach on The Ultimate Fighter, season five.
It may sound as if I am dismissing this bout for cosmetic reasons, but I am not. In fact, no true fan of the sport that follows it with any dedication would dismiss such a great fight.
But everyone else just might, and that would be a tragedy.
Very rarely does the sport of MMA come close to offering the viewing public the kind of bout that boxing has been able to do in the past.
Barrera vs. Morales, Leonard vs. Hearns—these were bouts that had to be made because of the greatness of the men involved. MMA has never really seen this with any kind of consistency. In a sport where there are so many ways to loose, when a natural barn burner of a bout arises, by way of due process, one of the fighters usually gets knocked off by someone unexpected.
But maybe that’s the way it should be, because a bout between Aldo and Pettis would be an incredible fight, but it wouldn’t be a Superfight—not yet.
But it shouldn’t take that long, either.
Two more successful title defenses for each man, in Vegas, would do very well toward selling the virtue of their eventual confrontation. One of the things about Superfights is that they are a kind of wish fulfillment. Fans watch great fighters who seem to have no peer, and they begin to talk: “Wouldn’t it be great if that Aldo fella could tangle with that Pettis kid?”
“Yeah, partner, it would. It would be super.”
You can’t force it down their throats; boxing has been doing that very thing for a long time, and the fans can tell the difference.
They know they never got the fight they really wanted—Mayweather vs. Pacquiao—but they’ll take what they can because what is a boxing fan to do?
In order for Aldo and Pettis to get the recognition their fight (or fights, hopefully a trilogy if the gods are kind) deserves, the fans have to be talking about it and daydreaming about it before it becomes a reality.
Superfights aren’t a matter of sleight of hand and snake oil salesmanship; they’re waking up to Christmas morning dreams come true.
But just as Christmas is only Christmas because everyone knows the date, a Superfight is only as good as the names involved; so much so that the virtue of such high violence sells itself.
Perhaps another way to get such a bout the attention it needs is to expose the masses to both of these fine fighters during a season of The Ultimate Fighter.
It may seem fabricated, but if there is anyone who could use the show to get under the skin of Aldo, it’s the ultra-confident and proud Pettis, and a little bad blood isn’t a bad thing in the fight game.
Of course, at times like these we are reminded of the question of a tree falling in the woods. Does it make a sound when it comes crashing down if there is no one there to hear it?
While I cannot prove a positive or a negative, I can say with certainty that a fight between Aldo and Pettis must not suffer such limitations. It’s a fight that needs to be seen and heard by everyone who loves great fights.
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