Well, don’t worry. Don’t worry. Anthony Pettis is not going to do what you all think he’s going to do -- which is just flip out.
No, when Pettis heard that the next UFC lightweight title shot is officially going to Gilbert Melendez, it didn’t faze him. After all, it’s not the first time he’s been overlooked.
“It is what it is,” Pettis told ESPN.com. “It’s not a shocker or some crazy new news to me. I’ve been here before.”
Several times, actually. Following a draw between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard at UFC 125 in January 2011, it was announced at the press conference that Pettis would still face Edgar in the next title bout as originally planned. But things changed.
Following Pettis' spectacular knockout over Joe Lauzon at UFC 144 in February, UFC president Dana White said he thought Pettis would be next in line. Didn’t happen.
Also in 2012, the UFC informed Pettis he was a front-runner to coach "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series opposite Donald Cerrone, so much so that Pettis assembled his coaching staff for the show. The contract, though, must have gotten lost in the mail.
Heading into 2013, there are no expectations from Pettis or his camp. There’s only what’s real and in front of him, which right now means a highly anticipated bout with Cerrone at a UFC on Fox event in Chicago on Jan. 26.
“One of our mottos is don’t be bitter, be better,” said Duke Roufus, Pettis’ head trainer. “You can’t control what happened yesterday. Just focus on what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
For the record, Pettis believes Melendez is a terrific lightweight. He believes the competition he’s faced in the last two years trumps anything Melendez saw as the Strikeforce champion, but whatever. Doesn’t matter. He's not complaining.
Pettis (15-2) knows he can’t be thinking about Melendez, current champion Ben Henderson or anyone else when he enters the cage later this month for the first time since the Lauzon win. He can’t afford it against a guy like Cerrone.
“I’ve never had a fight where I had to switch things up on the fly,” Pettis said. “I think you’re going to see the best Anthony Pettis in this because I’ve got an opponent who can push me and who, I believe, can stay in front of me the whole time.”
The possibility of trash talk loomed in this fight, as Cerrone (19-4) spent much of 2012 telling anyone who would listen Pettis was ducking him.
As the fight gets closer, though, the interviews have shown the genuine respect these two have for one another. You get the sense each knows this is a fight in which anything could happen. A title fight, minus the title.
“Donald Cerrone is one hell of a fighter,” Roufus said. “They are similar in styles but different in demeanor. As a fan of fighting, this should be the fight fans want to tune in and watch.
“No one can make a mistake. The guy who makes a mistake is the guy who loses this fight. This is going to be a very brutal chess match.”
There is not yet any guarantee the winner will go on to challenge for the 155-pound belt. Even if there was such a promise, Pettis likely wouldn’t believe it.
He’s heard the rumors that free agent Eddie Alvarez could get an immediate title shot if he joins the UFC, a move Pettis said would make “no sense” since Alvarez wasn’t even a champion at the end of his Bellator contract.
Regardless, Pettis only wants to get back to what originally put him in line to compete for the title in 2011. Just win fights.
“I figured out early in my career that things change,” Pettis said. “Until contracts are signed, you don’t have a title shot. I’m just excited to get back in the cage.”