Skip to main content

When Anthony Pettis walked into the Octagon to fight Rafael Dos Anjos as the defending lightweight champion, he was on top of the sport.

A flashy striker with mainstream appeal, Pettis had — apart from a few injuries — gone from strength to strength in his fighting career, all the way back to the famous Showtime kick. At UFC 185, however, he met nothing but brutal resistance.

Dos Anjos took the title from Pettis via a five round beating, still one of the most domninant displays from a challenger ever. Since that loss, Pettis has never reached the 155-pound title again, instead going 3-5 in his next eight fights. And according to the man himself, it could all well be down to the nature of his defeat to Dos Anjos back in Dallas.

“I’d never lost [like that], hit in the face, I’d never had stitches after a fight,” Pettis said, speaking to ESPN. “You got to RDA, I gotta get stiches under both eyes. I was beat up pretty bad. That was the first time I got beat up like that. And it changes you. It changes everything. That confidence you used to have to put yourself in the fire and take risk, you get little second doubts — maybe I’m not quick enough this time, maybe I’m gonna get hit again — it puts some doubt in your head. And there’s no way to replace that other than fighting, and for us, we can only fight three times a year.

“It has to be erased in the Octagon, it can’t be erased in practice. It has to be erased when the lights are on and all eyes are on you, and everything’s at stake. Because that’s when you have to take the risk, not when you’re at practice and you’re like, ‘if I get hit who cares’. This is when it matters. I feel like I’m building back up to that, but yeah, to be honest it’s been a while since I felt invincible.”

This Saturday, Pettis moves up to welterweight for the first time in his career, meeting 170-pound title contender Stephen Thompson.