Sometimes, the "best" fight isn’t necessarily the "right" fight.
During the news conference following UFC 164, a place where president Dana White typically refuses to answer any of the “Who’s next for so-and-so” questions, he was at least willing to admit the obvious.
What is the most tantalizing, intriguing, fun fight he could make right now for featherweight champion Jose Aldo?
"It’s 100 percent Anthony Pettis," White said. "Yeah, 100 percent. That is a sick fight."
So why then, less than 72 hours later, did White announce Pettis would defend the lightweight title against TJ Grant? Aldo’s schedule is open. Expectations are that his foot injury will heal within the same timeframe of Pettis’ knee. What gives?
We can safely assume here that if Pettis is the best fight available for Aldo, then Aldo is the best fight available for Pettis. Fans, media, probably even Grant would admit that absolutely, Aldo versus Pettis is "a sick fight."
The "right" fight though, is the one the UFC is going with. Grant (21-5) has this strange, unflattering quality of being somewhat overlookable -- but that can’t take away from the fact he is (A) The No. 1 contender at 155 pounds, (B) Deserving of the opportunity to achieve his dream and (C) A pretty sick fight against Pettis, himself.
When a belt changes hands, one of the first questions seemingly on everybody’s mind is: How long before it changes hands again? In the case of Pettis, the quality of the lightweight division suggests it will be difficult to hang on to the belt, but the quality of his recent three first-round finishes say he’s up to the task.
We know, however, that styles make fights and interestingly enough, Grant represents perhaps the absolute worst style matchup for Pettis at 155 pounds. And he happens to be up first.
If you picked Henderson last weekend, you probably did so because the best way to avoid dynamite is to smother it. Henderson tried to contain Pettis’ flash -- couldn’t.
Grant is big, first of all. A welterweight turned lightweight, who has been dominant since dropping weight classes in 2011. He can smother, but in a violent manner. Whereas few expected Henderson to really hurt Pettis (more control him), the same can’t be said in a matchup with Grant.
Does this fight possess the same combustible nature that Aldo versus Pettis would? We basically already answered that it doesn’t. White admitted as much.
Credit the UFC though, for promoting the correct fight, instead of necessarily the easy fight. Grant is the No. 1 contender at 155 pounds. Pettis is the 155-pound champion. Pettis has never fought at 145 pounds. Aldo has never fought at 155.
Also, notice what White told "SportsCenter" on Tuesday.
“If Pettis defends the title and gets that win, we’ll probably be looking at Aldo next,” White said.
Both Aldo and Pettis are 26. Aldo will undoubtedly become a lightweight at some point and Pettis isn’t going anywhere. If these two still haven’t fought each other by the time they’re 30, we can revisit this topic.
For now, "giving" Grant the fight he earned inside the cage was the right call.