Anthony Pettis’ request to fight featherweight champion Jose Aldo just moments after winning the UFC lightweight title might have been a tad premature.
UFC President Dana White revealed Saturday night that Pettis suffered a knee injury during his title-winning performance at UFC 164.
“Anthony’s knee popped in the fight,” White said at the post-fight press conference. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, so there’s no sense in even talking about another fight right now.”
Pettis put forth a masterful performance in the evening’s main event from the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee en route to lifting the lightweight title from Benson Henderson, although it was “Smooth” who took the initiative in the early going. Henderson smothered Pettis against the cage in search of a takedown and chopped away at the legs of “Showtime” with short kicks and knees.
“Henderson threw a kick, and I went to check it with my left leg. He hit right in the crook of the knee, and I felt it go back and forth,” said Pettis, who had not yet had the injury diagnosed. “I stepped on it, and it was hurting a little bit. When he had me on the cage, I was going with one leg down, because it was starting to lock up. We’ll find out pretty soon when I get an MRI.”
This marks the second knee issue for Pettis this year, who saw a featherweight title shot against Aldo evaporate thanks to a damaged LCL in his right knee. However, Pettis said he never lost the belief that he would wear UFC gold.
“I envisioned this for seven months. Ever since I beat Donald Cerrone, all I dreamed about was that belt getting wrapped around me. I’m never going to let it go to the judges again,” said Pettis. “I learned that from Clay Guida. He took me down and stayed on top of me for three rounds, and I lost the fight. I wasn’t in trouble. There are ways to win without having to finish somebody, but I’m not that guy. I’m going to finish everybody I fight.”
After getting some distance from Henderson, Pettis went to work with brutal body kicks that pushed “Smooth” backward. Though “Showtime” would end up on his back after a failed cartwheel kick attempt, the development proved auspicious, as the Roufusport product locked up a tight armbar and forced Henderson to relinquish his belt via verbal submission.
“I’m a mixed martial artist. I’m good everywhere. I think a lot of people forgot that I have good jiu-jitsu off my back,” said Pettis. “I’m always looking to attack. I got to secure the position, and I thought he was going to rip his arm out, but I got deep enough where I had his elbow nice and tight. He tried to roll with it, but I found the angle, and I heard him say, ‘Tap.’”
Pettis’ triumph marks the lightweight’s second win over Henderson, whom he beat more than two years ago for the World Extreme Cagefighting title in a “Fight of the Year” nominee. Though Pettis said that victory will always be significant for him, capturing the top title in the sport takes the cake.
“This is the NFL or NBA of mixed martial arts,” said Pettis. “Winning the WEC title meant a lot to me. I was very young, and I fought Ben a year and a half into [my] WEC [run]. He’s a great champion. He’s very respectful, and he never does dumb things out there. Now that we’re both in the UFC and I won this belt, it’s amazing. It’s something I really tried hard to do, and I finally accomplished it.”