You’d give more than a penny for his Friday-night thoughts.
Because on the one hand, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis gets to watch younger brother Sergio fight at the Rave/Eagles Club for the inaugural Resurrection Fighting Alliance flyweight championship. It’s the night’s headliner bout, broadcast live nationwide on AXS TV, and it’s 19-year-old Sergio’s next step on his path to joining big brother in the UFC.
So it was all shaping up to be a fun night for the Pettis brothers. But now, Anthony will watch knowing that his own UFC path is blocked yet again. Because mere weeks before his long-awaited shot at a UFC championship, Pettis learned he had to wait even longer.
Showtime told the story Monday on the MMA Hour (starting around the 1:49:00 mark). He’d been in Brazil doing promotional work for UFC 163, the Aug. 3 event that featured his 145-pound title tilt against Jose Aldo. He was in the midst of his last workout before heading back home. And then he learned just what a troublesome thing a knee can be.
The best fighter in Milwaukee, a man who said he “felt invincible in training,” suffered a torn meniscus. A minor tear, yes, and one that didn’t require surgery. But it was major enough for the UFC to pull him from the fight. Major enough to shelve his title shot. Which means major frustration for Anthony Pettis, and a disappointing dab of déjà vu.
Because Showtime is getting another taste of life as Sisyphus.
For the second time in two years, Pettis has watched a promised UFC title shot evaporate into the ether. He was supposed to fight for the UFC’s 155-pound title in 2011, but that was scuttled by a complex set of circumstances.
(The short version: Another contender fought the reigning 155-pound champ to a draw, and the resulting rematch delayed Pettis’ fight. So to stay in fighting shape, Pettis took a non-title bout against a stylistically difficult foe and lost a close decision, shoving him to the back of the contender’s line.)
Since then, Pettis fought his way back into title contention with three consecutive wins, cementing his top-contender status with a two straight first-round knockouts. But facing another long wait to fight the new 155-pound champ – old friend Benson Henderson – and knowing what happened the last time he faced a long wait, Pettis lobbied for a more immediate shot at Aldo’s 145-pound title. UFC President Dana White granted the request. The path was finally clear.
And now this.
At some point, you figure, this too shall pass. At some point, you figure, Pettis will look back on his long, frustration-fraught journey and say it was worth every step. And you figure all of that because you count on this: Pettis is simply too talented and too determined to never wear a UFC championship belt.
The dream scenario is for it to happen in Milwaukee. The fantasy scenario is for it to happen in Milwaukee on Aug. 31, when Henderson is scheduled to defend his 155-pound belt at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. White is dubious Pettis could be healthy enough in time, and he sounds like a man trying to protect Pettis from himself. “I want him to heal and get his knee fixed properly,” White said.
But White is also one of the smartest businessmen in sports. He knows a great story when he sees one, and few would be greater than Showtime shedding Sisyphus by beating Henderson in Milwaukee. You wonder if White is holding out just a sliver of hope.
You don’t have to wonder what Anthony is hoping for. Two Pettis brothers winning two titles in Milwaukee about two months apart? It would be the summertime of Showtime.
Addendum: The UFC has officially put the kibosh on Pettis being healthy enough in time for UFC 164 in Milwaukee. The organization's doctors say he'll be out a minimum of six weeks.
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