At least for the moment, Anthony Pettis is done talking about the UFC lightweight championship.
"For me I just gave up on that whole little guaranteed title shot picture," Pettis told ESPN radio’s Steve Cofield in Las Vegas this week, as he prepares to face Clay Guida in the main event of the “Ultimate Fighter” season 13 finale. "Nothing is guaranteed in this sport. I'm just going to keep fighting my fights and line them up."
Probably a good idea for the 24-year-old prospect, who once appeared set to get a shot at the gold in his promotional debut after becoming the last reigning WEC 155-pound champion five months ago. Since then, injury and unexpected plot twists – Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard ending in a draw at UFC 125, for example – have conspired to put that title opportunity off, perhaps indefinitely.
Instead, Pettis will fight Guida this weekend in an affair where the only apparent positive consequence could be that (if he wins) the kid will get the very thing matchmakers already promised him months ago. Maybe. Actually it’s not quite as cut and dried as all that, as UFC President Dana White has recently begun casually asserting that Pettis might need to win yet another fight in the Octagon before the MMA stars align for him.
"That kid's in a bad position," White told Fighters Only Magazine. "He's supposed to be the next in line (and) all this craziness happens … I respect him for stepping up and taking on a tough guy like Guida and he'll probably have to fight again before he gets a shot at (Edgar or Maynard).”
Though he opened as a slight betting favorite over the 155-pound gatekeeper, winning even this fight is far from assured for Pettis. He lit up the Internet late last year with the unbelievable flying kick he used to salt away a unanimous decision victory over Ben Henderson in the last fight in WEC history, but he is still relatively unproven. His physical skills might well be off the charts and he put together an impressive four-fight streak over increasingly difficult competition to close out his WEC career, but there’s no telling if that will translate to success in the Octagon.
By contrast, Guida is one of the UFC’s more proven veterans. As he noted in interviews this week, he’s coming up on his fifth anniversary with the company and has established a decent (if not stellar) promotional record of 8-5. He’s let down against most of the top-flight competition he’s faced, but is currently riding a decent three-fight streak capped by a win over a former world No.1, Takanori Gomi.
The scouting report on Guida is as worn as an old library book: He’s going to try to use his boundless cardio and wrestling skills to ground Pettis and grind out a decision. To date it’s been a fairly successful strategy for him, though he’s been susceptible to submissions and to guys who are, well, just better fighters than him.
Does Pettis fit that bill? Maybe, and as chaos continues to reign in the lightweight division, a win here likely gets him right back in the championship conversation. Even if he doesn’t plan on taking part in it.