Pettis Takes Title; Bookends WEC with a Bang

By Mike Whitman Dec 16, 2010
Anthony Pettis file photo |

What a way to go out.

In the of WEC's final round of action, Anthony Pettis landed one of the most spectacular kicks in the history of the sport, dropping Benson Henderson and securing Pettis both the round and the contest by earning a unanimous decision in the main event of WEC 53 at the Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

Following 20 hard-fought minutes of action, Pettis threw caution to the wind in the fifth frame, launching off the fence and connecting with a powerful roundhouse to the head of the circling champion. Dubbed the “Showtime Kick” by Pettis at the post-fight press conference, the 23-year-old credited his trainer with inspiring him to attempt the maneuver.

“Duke Roufus plays with us, and we try these new kicks. He told us if one of us lands it in the cage that he would take us to dinner,” said Pettis. “So he owes me some dinner.”

While most would shy away from attempting such a flashy technique in the fifth round of such an important fight, Pettis claims the move was executed out of necessity.

“I saw he kept circling across the cage, and I knew I had to try it. When he was [circling] away from the cage, I knew I had room to jump off,” said Pettis. “The biggest thing going through my mind was [that I needed to] go for it. He was checking my low kicks. So [I decided that I had to] do something outside of the box and see what happens. I just wanted to land something. If I wouldn't have landed the kick, I would have followed up with something else.”

Though the kick knocked the champion off his feet, Henderson somehow managed to recover, shooting a single leg and surviving till the final bell. According to Pettis, overcoming the durable champion in such a fashion was a surreal, but exhilarating experience.

“It doesn't feel real. It's crazy. That was a tough fight, and he's a great fighter,” said Pettis. “I'm feeling great. The only thing that hurts is my right foot from that crazy kick off the cage.”

With the fight arguably tied at two rounds a piece heading into the fifth, “Showtime” was so engaged in the action that he had lost track of the time.

“I thought I was going into the fourth, and my corner said it was the last round. I came with some crazy stuff and it paid off,” he said.

Pettis, whose father was murdered in 2003, asserts that his father's memory gives him strength in the cage.

“This is a dream come true. My dad was with me through my whole martial arts career. When he died, I stopped [practicing] for a while. Then I found MMA with Duke Roufus and Pat Barry. They're like my family,” said Pettis. “My dad gave me my competitive edge. I feel close to him doing this. The belt is just icing on the cake. I can't wait to go back to his grave and show him the belt.”

On the horizon sits the new biggest fight of Pettis' young career: a showdown with the UFC lightweight champion. Regardless of who wins the championship scrap between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard at UFC 125, Pettis says he'll be ready.

“I haven't had time to think about Edgar or Maynard, because I’ve been focused on Ben Henderson. So I'll go home and figure out both styles. I think I'll fight both eventually,” said Pettis. “I’m coming here to fight the best, and this [WEC] belt doesn't mean I’m the best yet. I want the next one. That means I’m the best.”
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