Anthony Pettis is quickly becoming one of the most popular fighters in the sport.
His freestyle striking and bolstered technique have catapulted him to the forefront of the UFC lightweight division.
For Pettis to remain successful and sustain brilliance, he'll have to fend off some of the very best at 155 along the way. This includes an upcoming battle opposite former Strikeforce kingpin Gilbert Melendez following the conclusion of season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Now while the two dynamic lightweights will do most of their work as head coaches over the next few months, their budding rivalry will come to fruition later this year in what will be one of the most highly anticipated matchups of 2014.
"Gilbert's going to be a good fight," said Pettis during a Q&A before UFC 171 weigh-ins this past Friday, originally reported by Steven Marrocco of MMAJunkie. "I’m probably going to knock him out."
While Melendez is one of the toughest fighters in the world, it's hard to doubt a fighter like Pettis who has racked off sensational finish after sensational finish. Whether it was his liver kick knockout over Donald Cerrone or his most recent victory over Benson Henderson via submission to capture the title, the 27-year-old knows how to send his opponent packing.
But despite the task at hand, Pettis has his sights set on other divisional foe. A guy who Melendez is very familiar with.
"To be honest, the guy I really want to fight right now is Nate Diaz,” added Pettis. “I think the fans want to see that one, so Nate Diaz is on the radar for sure. For me, Diaz is a good fighter. He could be one of the next guys I fight, but he’s the one that talks the most. So I want to settle it."
Whichever way you split it, Pettis will certainly have his hands full for the next few years. Melendez and Diaz are just the start. Guys like Khabib Nurmagomedov and TJ Grant will be eagerly waiting in the wings come 2015.
In any case, Pettis holds the key to his own success. He's already a borderline superstar. If he can rack up some title defenses, he'll become a household name the UFC can fall back on quicker than Chael Sonnen can say, "Anderson Silva III."
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