By Matt Saccaro
Sergio Pettis isn’t ready for the UFC.
This opinion might be unpopular, but it’s true. UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis‘ younger brother just isn’t ready.
Sergio Pettis is talented, of that there is no doubt. While most 20-somethings were complaining about trivial social justice issues on Thought Catalog or watching Girls, Sergio Pettis was kicking ass en route to the UFC, showing that he has ample technique and a bright future. The hype wanted us to believe Pettis’ future was now. Fuck the Super Mario Brothers, it was time for the Super Pettis Brothers.
Alas, like with nearly every young, buzzworthy prospect, Pettis faltered. The hype train managed to steamroll over his pedestrian UFC debut, but not so for his follow-up fight against Alex Caceres at UFC on FOX 10. Pettis lost via submission in the third round. Even though the fight was close and well-fought up until the submission, a loss is still a loss.
“He’s just not as good as his brother,” some will say. Others will be harsher, citing Alexander Emelianenko syndrome. “If it wasn’t for his last name, you’d have never heard him; he’s nothing special.”
They’ll be right, but only about the “if it wasn’t for his last name” part.
If Sergio Pettis was just a highly skilled 20-year-old without the baggage of a notable surname, he might not have been brought into the UFC so quickly. And even if the UFC had hired him, the negative, hateful fallout from a loss—or even from a lackluster victory—wouldn’t be so great.
The UFC has a history of throwing still-developing prospects into the
fire nuclear reactor a little too soon. They fed a 20-year-old, 4-0 Max Holloway to Dustin Poirier back at UFC 143. Charles Oliveira‘s career was rushed as well. He went from fighting the likes of Efrain Escudero straight to top-flight talent like Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone. The young Brazilian wasn’t ready for this dramatic uptick in competition, and his career suffered. It still hasn’t rebounded.
But you don’t hear about these fighters quite so much because they don’t have famous older brothers. The MMA twitterverse isn’t rife with activity when these fighters lose. It was when Sergio Pettis lost.
In MMA, the drawbacks of a famous last name often outnumber the benefits; exposure is a double-edged sword that slays the lesser brother, leaving their career as one of many corpses the message board vultures pick clean.
2014 is not Pettis’ time. He’s quite a talent for his age, but he’s still green. At 20, and with a skill set that’s not quite there yet (but still growing tremendously with loads of potential), he’s not a world-beater. He might be one day, but not today. He’d benefit from more time on the regional circuit. But since he’s got a famous last name, the UFC might not heed this advice and let Pettis go develop his skills more. They’ll keep pushing Sergio Pettis before he’s ready just because he’s Sergio Pettis, the champ’s brother. And if he fails, he’ll forever become the Luigi to Anthony’s Mario—the perennial understudy—all because of his last name.