Bellator 272: After “Babysitting the Belt,” Sergio Pettis Feels Win Over Horiguchi Will See Him as True 135lb Champ

Sergio Pettis Bellator MMA
Sergio Pettis Credit: Bellator MMA

Sergio Pettis was coming off one of his last hard sparring sessions when we got the chance to speak with the bantamweight champ ahead of Bellator 272.

The event, Bellator’s final card of the calendar year, will see Pettis (21-5) attempt the first defense of his title, against a former champion in Kyoji Horiguchi. Ahead of the bout, everything has been coming together for Pettis. Something he attributes to both the point he’s at in his career, and in his life in general.

“I’ve got a beautiful fiance that keeps me dedicated to this sport. She has such a simple lifestyle with me that I can really tune in to my career, and tune in to that side of me that I feel like has been there,” he told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview. “I’m starting to grow, mentally and physically, and I feel everything’s just clicking. I’m starting to really understand the mental side of things.”

Pettis admits that in the past, he struggled with the mental side of the fight game. “I didn’t believe in myself, I had a lot of pessimistic thoughts. And I feel like that’s all changing now. I’m starting to really see my potential, I’m starting to really fall in love with hard work at the end of the day. I train year-round, there’s no training camps anymore. There’s just spikes.”

It just so happens that Pettis’ fiance holds a degree in psychology, so “she definitely helped me out” with the mental game, Pettis noted. He also recognized that the way he was living needed to change. “I didn’t want to just be an average individual. I wanted to progress and excel. I started reading books that started changing my outlook on things. I just feel like I tuned into that side of me, and I realized that it wasn’t my physicality that was messed up, it was my mental game.”

The changes came after two back-to-back losses in the UFC — which Pettis has turned into a four-fight win streak that culminated with him capturing the Bellator bantamweight title against Juan Archuleta earlier this year.

Now, he faces Horiguchi, with a couple of goals in mind as his reign gets fully underway. “Definitely tittle defenses, and the long-term journey of this art,” Pettis explained. “I feel, even this next fight, it’s not going to be the final product of Sergio Pettis. I still have so much more to give, and so much more to grow.”

“I’m fighting for longevity,” he added. “There’s so much more to me that needs to be shown, and it’s just a matter of time.”

Pettis, of course, has learned from one of the best. Older brother Anthony “Showtime” Pettis held gold in both the WEC and UFC, and Sergio was right there for all of it. “It definitely laid out a blueprint for me. I know what to avoid as far as people, as far as in and out of the gym. It was perfect.” He was blessed to have Anthony in his life, which allowed him to witness his brother’s journey first-hand. “Now it’s time for him to see my journey, be a part of my journey as well.”

The next fight is always the biggest fight for any pro fighter, but in the case of Pettis taking on Kyoji Horiguchi, there’s a real ring of truth to it. “For sure,” Pettis agreed. “Regardless of it being the next one, Horiguchi is my toughest fight to date, and toughest fight that I’ve had so far in my career. With a record like 29-3, it’s hard to deny that.”

That sort of challenge, however, is exactly what motivates Sergio Pettis. “He was really the last belt holder for Bellator. He didn’t really lose the belt, he had to give it up due to injury, then Juan [Archuleta] came and picked it up, and I beat Juan. If I beat [Horiguchi], I think this really signifies me as the 135lb champion in Bellator. Right now, I’m just kind of babysitting the belt.”

What this fight boils down to, Pettis said, is “the real champ and the current champ. This will put that all behind me, and then I can feel like I’m truly the champion of this division.”

Sergio Pettis meets Kyoji Horiguchi in the main event of Bellator 272 on Friday, December 3 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The card airs live on Showtime in the U.S.