(Admit it — you completely forgot about this guy. / Photo via MMAJunkie)
By Elias Cepeda
After ripping the lightweight world title away from Benson Henderson this past Saturday at UFC 164, Anthony Pettis immediately called out dominant featherweight champion Jose Aldo in the Octagon. The two have “unfinished business,” Pettis said.
Indeed they do. Pettis was supposed to drop down in weight and challenge Aldo for his belt a month ago, but injured his knee and pulled out of the fight. Then, when #1 lightweight contender T.J. Grant got concussed in training and had to pull out of his UFC 164 fight against Henderson, Pettis filled in for him.
The rest is history…as well as an exciting mess of future match-up possibilities. Just days after the lightweight division was shaken up by Pettis’ armbar win, every one seems to be calling out everyone else, but some how no one’s interests are quite matching up yet.
After UFC 164 and Pettis’ call out of Aldo, the featherweight’s manager and coach, Andre Pederneiras tweeted in Portuguese, “I believe now we will see Pettis returning his lightweight belt and moving down to fight Aldo at 145 [pounds],” according to MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz.
“We were not the ones who left the fight in Rio, and I want to see [Pettis] make 145. This fight will happen, don’t worry. We just want equal rights to the Brazilians,” he went on.
UFC President Dana White immediately reacted to Pederneiras at the post event press conference. “They are going to fight,” White said.
“I’ve known Andre for years. But when you come out and make a statement like that, you make it look like (Aldo) is afraid. And that might not be Aldo’s same opinion. It makes it look like he’s afraid of Anthony Pettis, which already gives Anthony Pettis an advantage.”
Aldo himself went on the record with Brazilian TV show Planeta Nocaute, asserted that he is not afraid of Pettis or anyone else and defended his manager/coach’s statements. “I can fight Cain Velasquez if they want,” Cruz translates and reports.
It seems that Aldo and his camp are upset at having the tables turned on them. They say that White promised him a shot at the lightweight championship if he were to beat Pettis in their originally scheduled UFc 163 bout in Brazil a month ago.
“[Andre] is absolutely right,” Aldo said. “They forced us to do something and Andre wants something in return. I agree with everything Andre says, and I can fight anyone. Sometimes Dana says things that you better not pay attention. (Dana) knows he promised us things and he knows he has to give us, so that’s why he says those things. We’ll see what happens.”
Of course, Aldo would take offense to insinuations that he is scared to fight anyone but it is strange for him to insist on Pettis coming down in weight in order to fight. If Pettis wants to fight Aldo, and Aldo comes up, he can get the title shot he says White promised him without risking his own featherweight belt as he originally had to do first.
In any case, a fellow named T.J. Grant (you know, the lightweight division’s #1 contender?) isn’t too happy to have been taken out of the equation so summarily. He says that his concussion recovery is coming along well and that he’d be ready to fight in late December or at any point from January onward.
When he does return, Grant says that he deserves to fight Pettis next, though he understands the appeal of an Aldo/Pettis super fight. “I’m a fan,” Grant admitted to MMA Fighting. “I love watching UFC fights. I watch all of them, whether they’re people I’m potentially fighting or not, I enjoy it. Pettis against Aldo is an exciting fight.”
“But, hey, I just won my last fight in two minutes. I knocked [Gray Maynard] out. I knocked the guy out before that [Matt Wiman]. I feel like I’ve earned it. I feel like I’m the guy. I’ve been in the UFC a long time. I’ve never really gotten the push that I feel like I need but I’ve also built a lot of experience in fighting and haven’t been in the spotlight, which is nice too. But I’m ready to be there and I’m ready to go out there. Give me the opportunity man. I feel like I’ve earned it.”
And, as Grant points out, Aldo is injured right now anyway with a broken foot and won’t be able to fight for quite a long time. Thing is, Pettis also injured his knee during his brief fight against Henderson.
As of now, the extent of the new champion’s injury is not known or has not been revealed. If his required recovery time coincides with Aldo’s, then Grant really could be the odd man out for awhile.
If that’s the case, Grant has two other guys in mind to fight — Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson. Thomson has called out Grant and T.J. says that he’s been a fan of Melendez for years.
“I’m not specifically calling them out,” he specified. “I want a healthy Pettis, and I want a healthy me, and I want us to get in there and do battle.”
Which fight are you rooting for, nation? Aldo vs. Pettis? If so, what weight? Any underdog fans really want to see Grant get in there first? Personally, this writer is eagerly awaiting Cain Velasquez’s response to Aldo’s challenge. I think Aldo could beat up the heavyweight champ’s legs a bit and maybe land a knee before Velasquez eats him.