In March, Anthony Pettis will move up from the 155-pound division to challenge former title challenger Stephen Thompson at welterweight, and win or lose, Pettis claims the fight was a bucket list item for his career.
Pettis, who faces "Wonderboy" in the main event of UFC Fight Night 148 on March 23, will be making his first foray into the welterweight division against a two-time title challenger in Thompson. The 31-year-old has fought at both 145 and 155 pounds -- winning an Ultimate Fighting Championship belt in the latter division -- and said the decision to move up to the 170-pound class was an easy one (via BJ Penn.com):
“Honestly, at 155 I practically fought the entire division,” Pettis said. “There are a couple guys who I have fought that I want some rematches. The division is in a pause right now. Of course, some things need to be figured out, but I also thought of going to welterweight. I actually fought at welterweight early in my career in Wisconsin.
“‘Wonderboy’ it’s just he is one of those guys I need to fight before I’m done,” he continued. “Before I retire I want to fight in the fights I want, and personally, that was one of the fights I wanted. I like his style: I come from a Tae Kwon Do background; he comes from a Karate background. It is an entertaining fight. He is just one of those guys who will come to fight.”
Pettis said cutting weight to make the 155 pound lightweight limit has affected his performances recently and the move up a weight class will ensure he has more energy come fight night.
“I think if I go in there and I feel the way I feel, like the  cut is getting harder, it takes away my energy and I think my performances have been hindered because my weight cuts are hard,” Pettis said. “I talked to my team about it a long time ago and we knew ‘Wonderboy’ was available. There are a lot of wrestlers in 170. Like if it came down to a title fight it would make sense, but Thompson for me is a striking match. Traditional martial artist vs traditional martial artist, so it is a good matchup for me.”
Pettis is well aware that Thompson will have a size advantage at welterweight although given Wonderboy’s fighting style he doesn’t think it is that big of an advantage.
“I know I’m undersized. He is a natural 170, he has to cut down to 170,” he said. “I will not have to cut any weight at all. He is not the guy who will hold me down so the size is not that big of a deal. If a clean punch hits you it doesn’t matter if the guy weighs 155 pounds or 170 pounds, if it is clean it is clean. I spar big guys all the time, so I’m not worried about it.”
Pettis says most of Thompson’s opponents get frustrated with his movement and end up taking risks to hit him before getting countered. “Showtime” said it won’t be an issue for him as he fights the same style as his opponent and believes he is overall the more skilful fighter.
“Thompson’s whole game plan is range. He gets these guys so fixated on hitting on him, they walk right into his punches and roundhouse kicks,” Pettis said. “The game he plays, I have done that my whole life. The point sparring is what I grew up doing. When it comes to overall martial arts, I’m a better Thai boxer than him, I’m a better boxer than him, I’m better at jiu-jitsu than him. Other than size, overall skill-wise I’m better than him.”
Given their similar styles, Pettis says he is just excited to see how the fight pans out when they meet in March.
“I don’t even know and that is the exciting part about it,” he said. “I don’t even know if he is going to try and wrestle me and use his size advantage and hold me up against the cage and score points that way. Or, if he will try and stay long and have a standup fight. It depends what he wants to do. I know I’m moving forward. I have nothing to lose so I’m biting down on my mouthpiece and moving forward.” UFC Fight Night 148: Thompson vs. Pettis takes place March 23, 2019 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to the welterweight headliner, the card is anchored by a matchup between heavyweight contenders Curtis Blaydes and Justin Willis, and a flyweight scrap between perennial contender Jussier da Silva and the fast-rising Deiveson Figueiredo.