After the WEC was dissolved by the UFC and their roster largely absorbed, Anthony Pettis instantly became one of the faces of the company. Buoyed by the “showtime kick” that he landed in the very last round of the very last fight on the very last WEC card, Pettis was pegged for success and stardom. In less than 4 years, not only did Pettis take the lightweight title, but became the first UFC fighter on the cover of a Wheaties box.
And when you look back at that story, it may be hard for fans of the sport to imagine him leaving the organization. However, it was clearly less hard for Pettis himself, who had decided to test the waters of free agency over a year ago.
“At the beginning of 2020, I had three fights left on my contract and the UFC didn’t make an offer for me to resign at that time,” Pettis said, hinting that the beginning of the year was usually the time the UFC would offer such an extension.“So that’s when I kind of went back to my team, my coaches, my managers and I’m like, let’s fight this out and see what happens.”
The road to fighting it out was a long one. At first there were no fights due to COVID. Shortly thereafter, fights started back up, but nobody had returned to a normal level of training and some fighters found it hard to take fights. Eventually Pettis hit a stroke of luck when he got his third bout just before the end of the year on late notice. He finished 2020 at 2-1, on a two-fight win streak.
And while his UFC journey was a long one, the decision to sign with the PFL upon the expiration of his UFC contract didn’t take long at all. In fact, in less than a couple of weeks, “Showtime” had his new home.
“PFL made a deal that I just couldn’t refuse as far as the way they approach things and they handle things,” he said. “They asked me what I wanted in my career, where I wanted to be at – things that made me feel like it was more of a partnership deal than to fight in another organization.”
That feeling of a partnership was what drew Pettis most to the company – this idea that both would be helping the other work towards their goals and accomplishing them as a unit.
“I can become the face of this organization and take this organization to become a household name and make people tune in that have never seen it before,” he said.
— Anthony Pettis (@Showtimepettis) January 27, 2021
Of course, while the pitch had to be right and the numbers were all there, Pettis, like most Americans, wanted to start 2021 off on the right foot. Having a plan and a destination in mind allowed him to jump at this new deal even quicker.
“I really wanted to start 2021 with a goal in mind, an organization, a new home,” Pettis admitted. “When they made the offer and the finances were right, the opportunities were right.”
Knowing that PFL has a major cable deal with ESPN certainly didn’t hurt things either. Being a fighter that understands the business side of mixed martial arts, Pettis wanted to be sure the organization was one where he could continue to gain exposure and grow. His goal to be on the Top 10 every time he fights would make it all the more sweeter.
“[Being on ESPN] that was a huge part of what we were looking at,” he said. “When you are a fighter you have a brand ,and I think my brand is very strong in the fight world. When I found out they’re on ESPN… it was, for me, a no brainer.”
You can catch Anthony Pettis looking to grow that brand when the PFL schedule kicks off on April 23, 2021 on ESPN.