The biggest day in Anthony Pettis’ life is quickly approaching. At age 23, the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight is set to contend for the WEC title against champion Ben Henderson on Thursday, Dec. 16 in Glendale, Ariz. in the final WEC event in the history of the organization. As if fighting for the title wasn’t enough, the winner of this showdown will immediately become the No. 1 contender to the UFC lightweight title as the premiere MMA organization will absorb the WEC starting in January.
It has been whirlwind year for Pettis, who picked up a major sponsorship with AMP Energy and was featured on MTV’s “World of Jenks” over the past few months all while climbing the WEC lightweight ladder. With his lifelong dream and a world of opportunity within his grasp, Pettis took some time from preparing for Henderson to speak will Bullz-Eye.com about this.
Bullz-Eye: Well, Anthony, the fight is getting closer, how do you feel your training is going as you are winding down your camp?
Anthony Pettis: I am feeling great. I have had a great camp. I am ready. I have pushed myself to the limits everyday. I leave it all in practice. If Ben is going to beat me it is because he is truly better than me, not because I didn’t prepare the right way.
BE: What about the concept of a five-round fight? How have you been working on your cardio for this fight and how do you feel about your conditioning if it goes into those later rounds?
AP: I hired a great strength and conditioning coach that I have been working with for the last two fights and we have been pushing it. The only way to prepare for a five-round fight is to push your cardio and push yourself to the limits. I have been doing that everyday and I have been sparring six-minute rounds and I have been feeling good. My coach, Duke Roufus, really knows how to get ready for a fight and he is pushing me hard.
BE: Do you have to change your mindset for this fight knowing you may have to go an extra 10 minutes than a normal bout?
AP: I am not changing anything. I am training myself to give 100 percent every second of every round. I am pushing myself to the limits. I really am pushing myself to my limits. I want to be able to go, go, go. I want to take the fight anywhere and everywhere. I am not going to be looking to take it easy for a couple of rounds. I am going to push a fast pace and do my all to keep winning the fight at all times.
BE: What do you see when you watch Ben Henderson on film? What stands out about him? He seems like he just has a little bit of everything and doesn’t excel in any one area.
AP: Yeah, I am glad you said that because clearly Ben is a great fighter and he is a great champion that is tough in every aspect, but he has holes in his game just like everyone does. I mean, I have holes in my game. My coach has been watching a lot of tape on him and he has been training me for certain positions and situations that are going to help me capitalize and get a win in this fight. I have some great training partners that even look like Ben. The thing I have to look out for is his cardio because he is relentless and I can’t let myself lose focus.
BE: Without giving away your strategy for the fight, in what areas do you feel you are superior to Henderson?
AP: It is simple, for this fight I want to be the better fighter everywhere. His wrestling is great, his striking is good, and his cardio is good. I have to be ready for anything and be just a little bit better.
BE: How important will the mental aspect of this fight be given that it is your first title fight?
AP: It is big. Each fight I have had over the last few years has been a peak fight where it was the biggest fight of my career to that point. Now, I am 23-years-old and fighting for a world title and a chance to fight for the UFC belt. It is kind of overwhelming, but I know no matter what I do, I am going to have some nerves. I really just need to focus on doing what I did to get to this point and push myself a little further than that. I don’t want to overdo it or under do it.
BE: Are you going to try and enjoy the moment of reaching this milestone come fight night?
AP: I am going to love every moment. I am loving it now. This is what I have wanted to do with my life and this is all I have wanted to do. I am going to enjoy every moment and this is the last event ever in the WEC and I am going to be part of that. It will be great.
BE: With the nerves, how long does it take for your nerves to settle on fight night?
AP: I don’t think my nerves go away until I am lying in bed that night and when the fight is over, the interviews are done, and after the celebrating is over. It is one of those things you can’t explain. I love the feeling, but I just can’t explain it. You have to get up for these fights, but for me the nerves don’t go away until I am sleeping.
BE: How have you envisioned yourself winning this fight?
AP: Everyone asks me that and I honestly don’t know. This is one of those fights where it could end standing or it could end on the ground or even in the clinch. We are both good fighters, it is just going to come down to who makes the first mistake and how that guy capitalizes on that mistake. I will tell you this, no matter how the fight ends, my hand will be raised and that belt will be around my waist.
BE: Is it hard not to think about the feeling of becoming champion and just focus on the opponent or do you allow yourself to get lost in that moment?
AP: That has been my dream and that is what pushes me, so I think about it a lot. I am not trying to be overconfident or cocky, but my goal has always been to be champion, so I just have to be prepared to do anything and everything to make that happen. The next 25 minutes inside that cage decided the rest of my career. I think about that all the time.
BE: Would going a full 25 minutes in this fight prove something to you or do you not need to prove anything to yourself?
AP: I don’t think I need to go 25 minutes to finish this guy. It is going to be a war and we are both going to be looking to finish at all times. If it does go 25 minutes, that is just more time for me to prove to this guy that I am the better fighter. I think it would be a plus for me if it went 25 minutes because I can just put on more of a show. If I can finish this guy in 25 minutes, I should be able to finish him in 15 minutes.
BE: With the UFC merger starting in January, is it hard to not look forward to being a UFC fighter soon?
AP: It is not playing a big factor right now. Right now I am a WEC fighter and my next fight will be in the blue octagon and my hands will be wrapped in the WEC logo. What ever comes after that, I will prepare for it then.
BE: Why should fans that haven’t seen much of the WEC or seen you fight tune into this fight?
AP: If you haven’t seen me fight, every time I go into the cage I bring something new. I put on a show. It’s not that I am trying to put on a show for the fans, that is just my style. I have so many moves that the world hasn’t seen yet. Also, Ben Henderson is a great fighter and it is going to be two true warriors fighting in that cage. It is the last WEC event ever and we are going to put on a show.
BE: Alright Anthony, I appreciate your time and best of luck to you in your title fight.
AP: Thanks a lot. It will be a great fight.