Anthony Pettis will be the most recognizable figure in the Professional Fighters League lightweight field this season.
That’s just fine with the Roufusport stalwart, who has grown accustomed to such scrutiny after holding titles with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting over the course of his MMA career.
Pettis will make his PFL debut in Friday’s main event against fellow UFC vet Clay Collard as the promotion kicks off its 2021 campaign. The main card airs on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, while prelims stream on ESPN+ at 5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. PT.
“I was the champion in every organization I fought in, so I always had the target on my back,” Pettis said during a virtual media day to promote PFL’s season opener. “I kind of embraced that role. I know what these guys are looking forward to.
“The scariest thing about this is he (Collard) has nothing to lose. He can go out there and bite down on his mouthpiece and just go. There’s some good talent in this division. I’ve got to be sharp, I’ve got to be smart and I’ve got to be on my game. I don’t plan on veering off my game at all.”
Collard is an intriguing opening matchup for Pettis. The 28-year-old Pit Elevated Fight Team member owns an 18-8 MMA mark that includes a four-bout stint in the UFC, but he gained some additional recognition for his recent success in the boxing ring. Overall, Collard is 9-4-3 in the Sweet Science.
“I respect it,” Pettis said of Collard’s venture into boxing. “I train with some high level boxers. Raal boxers to get better, i wasn’t trying to hype up a fight. I know how good they are. Anybody that can go over there and hold their own, it takes some skills.”
At one point in time, Pettis appeared as though he was on track to become one of the UFC’s biggest stars. He entered the promotion on the heels of the viral “Showtime Kick” in the final WEC event, and it wasn’t long before he captured 155-pound gold in the Octagon and appeared on a Wheaties box.
Pettis has certainly endured his ups and downs since then, but he is still in awe that he’s accomplished as much as he has with the opportunity to do more. A chance to capture a championship with a third major organization has given Pettis ample motivation as he heads into what could be the final stage of his fighting career.
“I think my legacy is kind of already written. It’s still going, which is crazy,” Pettis said. “I’m 34 years old. This camp was amazing. I feel so good. The structure and the motivation, just everything that came along with this.
“Before when I was up and coming, I wanted to be known as the guy who would fight anybody, anytime anywhere — that’s why I was going to 145, 155, 170. Now I have the opportunity to become a three [organization] champion. I’m very excited about the opportunities in front of me.”
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