Walking Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) highlight-reel Anthony Pettis will get his long overdue UFC title shot later this year; however, it won't come in the weight class many expected.
"Showtime" has fought every bout in his career as a lightweight, but this summer the 26-year-old will drop a weight class down to 145-pounds to challenge featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo for the gold on August 3.
The announcement came as a shock to many as Pettis earned a chance to face the winner of April's lightweight championship bout between Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez with his knockout of Donald Cerrone at UFC on FOX 6 last month.
The match up between Pettis and Aldo formulated out of thin air when UFC President Dana White stated at last Saturday's (Feb. 2, 2013) UFC 156: "Aldo vs. Edgar" post-fight press conference that Pettis had sent him a text message expressing interest in a fight with Aldo following the Brazilian's unanimous decision victory over Frankie Edgar.
Talk about the match up echoed throughout the mixed martial arts (MMA) community for the next few days, but with Pettis never having fought in the featherweight division and contenders like Ricardo Lamas and Chan Sung Jung waiting in the wings for title shots of their own, no one knew if the fight was close to a reality.
On Tuesday morning, UFC officials formally announced the match up between two of the most dynamic strikers in the sport today.
With the ink still wet on his contract, the Duke Roufus-trained fighter appeared on Tuesday's (Feb. 5, 2013) edition of "UFC Tonight" on FUEL TV, opening up on a number of topics regarding the match up with Aldo, starting with why he expressed interest in the fight in the first place when he already had a title shot at 155-pounds secured.
"He's good where I'm good — he likes to stand, trade and bang, and I feel like I'm more well-rounded and can offer him a big challenge…. Aldo is a tougher fight [than Ben Henderson] … that's why I asked for it. He's going through opponents like crazy. He just beat the last 155-pound champion. I think, for me, Aldo is definitely the tougher challenge. I already beat Ben Henderson once and I think I'm going to be doing it again soon. But, I think Aldo is the guy who is on the radar."
The August 3rd bout will be Pettis' first trip down to 145-pounds, but the No. 1 lightweight contender (behind Melendez) doesn't see the additional 10-pound weight cut as an issue, and claims the only reason he has never considered it before is because his good friend and teammate Erik Koch competes as a featherweight.
"It's been something I've been thinking about for awhile now. I can make the weight easily. The reason why I haven't done it before was Erik Koch — he's a teammate of mine who was right up there for a title shot, so, I don't want to cross paths with him so I pushed that back a little bit. But, after being at the fights, I thought it was the right idea to call out Aldo — he's at the top of the division and he's probably one of the best guys in the 145 to 155 pounds range. So, or me, it was just wanting to fight the best. It's been awhile since [I last weighed 145 pounds]. Getting down to 155 was kind of hard for me until I got on a clean diet. It's becoming a lot easier — my last fight I went into the hot tub for two minute and made weight."
"UFC Tonight" correspondent Ariel Helwani also managed to get comments from two of the divisions top contenders in Lamas and Jung, whom are both outraged by the fact Pettis — a fighter with zero credentials in the weight class — leapfrogged them in the title hunt.
They may not have to worry for too long, though, as Pettis' ultimate goal is to be the lightweight champion and he is unsure what the future holds for him at featherweight beyond the Aldo fight.
"I'm not sure if [I'll stay at 145 pounds if I beat Aldo]," he said. "We'll have to cross that bridge when we get there. My goal is to be the 155 pound champ."
Other than the date, no further details regarding Pettis vs. Aldo are available at this time.
MMAmania.com will provide details regarding the location and venue plans for the title contest once they are announced.