UFC 249: Anthony Pettis Looking for Big Fights, And to Leave His Mark on MMA

Back in the win column after UFC 249, Anthony Pettis is looking for big fights moving forward.

For Anthony Pettis, his UFC 249 victory was about more than getting back in the win column.

Pettis (23-10), who got the better of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in an entertaining unanimous decision, spoke of the need to regain his confidence heading into Saturday’s fight in Jacksonville — the first major MMA event since March.  The lack of confidence had left him on a 1-3 run across his last four fights, and a two-fight skid.

Following his second win over “Cowboy” — the pair first met in 2013 — Pettis seemed to have at least some of it back.  And speaking to reporters including Cageside Press at a virtual press scrum, he shed some light on the steps he’s taken to help reclaim the self-assuredness he once had.  Which included recruiting the help of a sports psychologist.

“Honestly, my fiance’s the one that got me really into opening up to actually explore that.” Growing up as a Hispanic Puerto Rican Mexican, said Pettis, “I looked down upon that kind of stuff. You know, I’m like, ‘yo, somebody needs to get some advice to be mentally stronger, weak!” His fiance, however, gave him the little nudge needed to explore the idea.

“So I had a meeting. And man, I’ll tell you bro, like, it helps so much,” he exclaimed. “It gave me a path to defend against when I have a negative thought.”  As a fighter, Pettis hears it all the time. “You know, I’m sure some people are gonna talk trash about this fight. I go in and I read that, whether you like it or not, like a two minute tweet, a 10 second tweet that you read, changes the vibe of the week, the training session, the month. And I wasn’t aware of that.”

“So I was allowing myself to get pulled in like 28 different directions,” continued Pettis. “And now how do you focus on what you’re trying to do out there in the fight?”

This time out, he was able to maintain focus.  Control his breathing. Get rid of any sort of scatterbrained feeling. “It’s a scary time, it’s scary in the octagon, it’s a scary place.”

Ultimately, it helped him earn the win, which came down to a trio of 29-28 scores.

“I had no idea,” admitted Pettis about his thoughts when the scores were being read. “I’m so used to fighting with a crowd.”  Crowd response, said Pettis, allows him to know how he’s doing in a fight. “This time I didn’t know. I heard my coaches. I heard his coaches. I had no idea.”

The Anthony Pettis of old might be celebrating this win, with an after party or something of the sort.  Pandemic or not, that was the old Pettis. The current version no longer needs to celebrate. “I’ve stopped thinking about that. Literally, I just want to be remembered as putting some amazing performances on for the rest of my career. That’s why I’m focusing on good fights, big fights, and just leaving my mark on the sport.”