Anthony Pettis (16-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) still holds the dream of becoming UFC lightweight champion. But for now, a featherweight title shot is an opportunity he can't pass up.
"This one is guaranteed, as much as you can be guaranteed because anybody can get hurt in training," Pettis' manager, Mike Roberts, told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
It's an opportunity that materialized suddenly. Roberts and Pettis were a few beers into a night in Las Vegas on the weekend of UFC 156, and Pettis, who's made a career at 155 pounds, said he could beat featherweight champ Jose Aldo.
"I said, 'Yeah, I know. That fight sounds fun,'" Roberts said. "He watched that fight, and as he watched the fight, he got more excited. He was actually sitting with Urijah (Faber), and Urijah told him, 'Man, I'd love to see that fight.' And that's when Anthony sent the text to Dana (White)."
White relayed the message to the media after the main event, which saw Aldo defend his title against ex-lightweight champ Frankie Edgar. A few days later, and Pettis had the fight.
"Showtime" is the second straight lightweight to cut to 145 pounds for a fight with the Brazilian champ, who's now defended his title four times in the UFC, plus twice more in the WEC.
Roberts said Pettis' decision to change weight classes isn't rooted in a desire to avoid a fight with lightweight champ Benson Henderson, whom he defeated in the now-defunct WEC promotion's final event in December 2010. Instead, it was to seize on the chance to quickly capture a UFC belt, which might not happen if the fighter stays in his usual division.
Henderson is scheduled to defend his title against ex-Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez on April 20 at UFC on FOX 7, and if the fight is close or the winner sustains an injury, another long wait could be in store for Pettis.
"Benson's fights have all proved they all end up close, with the exception of the Diaz fight," Roberts said. "Somebody could get hurt, or there could need to be a rematch. Whichever bout agreement they send us first for a title fight, that's the one we'll take.
"The Aldo fight really catches Anthony's eye. People have seen Benson lose, because they watched Anthony do it, so they know what's going to happen. Nobody in the UFC has seen Aldo lose, or really even come close to losing."
Roberts said Pettis previously hadn't considered the move because of his longtime featherweight teammate, Erik Koch. That might have changed when Koch lost to Ricardo Lamas at UFC on FOX 6 and stepped to the back of the contender's queue.
But Pettis' future still holds a return to lightweight, where many fans want to see him rematch Henderson.
"He's still more comfortable at 155, because he wants that belt," Roberts said. "He's had that goal for so long. He's not abandoning that weight class."
For more on the Aldo-Pettis superfight at the UFC's August event, as well as the rest of the UFC's upcoming schedule, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.