It has been a lengthy layoff, but Anthony Pettis has officially started his road back to the Octagon.
The lightweight champion has been on the shelf since last December, when he underwent surgery to repair a torn posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his left knee that he suffered in his title tilt with Benson Henderson at UFC 164 that August.
While "Showtime's" injury stemmed from his championship performance in Milwaukee, the Roufusport fighter attempted to press on for a scheduled bout with Josh Thomson at UFC on Fox 9 before another setback to the same knee in his training camp sent him to the sidelines and into the operating room.
That series of events was undoubtedly a frustrating way for Pettis to end his 2013 campaign, but things appear to be on the rise for the 27-year-old. The 155-pound titleholder's coach Duke Roufus recently told MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani that his prized pupil received clearance in early May to box and train jiu-jitsu, in addition to resuming his strength and conditioning program.
This is good news where Pettis is concerned, as the striking phenom's schedule is about to get hectic. He is slated to face former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez at the end of the year, but before the two top lightweights collide inside the Octagon, they will take opposing coaching roles on the 20th installment of The Ultimate Fighter.
TUF 20 is set to be a historic chapter for the reality series, as it will introduce the women's strawweight division to the UFC roster and will crown a divisional champion upon the conclusion of the season's tournament.
With Pettis' return, the UFC will once again have the service of one of the organization's fastest rising stars. The former WEC champion has won eight of his last nine showings, including four of his five fights inside the Octagon, while his three most recent outings have all ended by way of an impressive finish.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.