A knee injury UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis suffered in his title-winning fight against Benson Henderson never fully healed, his trainer today told MMAjunkie.
“Anthony had been nursing it and trying to heal up, and he had just been training,” said Duke Roufus. “It did not bounce back the way he hoped it would.”
Roufus said Pettis was sparring recently and was hurt by a kick to his left knee. Later, the injury worsened when a grappling session went awry.
“Someone was on his back and pulled his leg to release the hook, and it was just excruciating pain,” Roufus said.
In August, Pettis submitted Henderson with an armbar at UFC 164 to win the 155-pound title, but did not emerge unscathed. A kick from Henderson caused his knee to “go back and forth” and lock up during the fight.
An MRI later revealed a grade II PCL sprain and LCL strain to his left knee. Pettis was expected to be out of action for a maximum of two months.
In early Sept., the UFC targeted a bout between Pettis (16-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) and T.J. Grant for December at UFC on FOX 9, but the No. 1 contender was forced to withdraw due to lingering effects from a concussion. In his place went ex-Strikeforce champ Josh Thomson (20-5 MMA, 3-1 UFC), who knocked out Nate Diaz in his April return to the UFC
The UFC confirmed Pettis’ withdrawal from the event over the weekend. Roufus said the champ saw his doctor in Milwaukee and UFC doctors in Las Vegas before the promotion decided to remove him from the card.
“He’s been training the most meticulous and careful that he’s ever trained,” Roufus said. “It’s just the knee isn’t healing the way he anticipated it to heal.
“He can stand up and do pads and cardio. He can do strength and conditioning. It’s getting kicked at and jiu-jitsu that are problems for him right now. If he had a boxing match right now, he’d be great.”
Roufus said he has yet to get a timeline for Pettis to be cleared to fight.
“It’s touch and go from here, just trying to stay positive and see what the next step is,” he said. “I feel bad for Josh Thomson; he was excited. Everyone knows that injuries happen in our sport. It’s just hard to deal with them sometimes.”
Pettis beat Henderson under the now-defunct WEC banner to claim the lightweight title. Rather than wait for a title shot, he made his UFC debut against Clay Guida and lost via decision. Henderson, meanwhile, stormed up the 155-pound ranks and then won the title by outpointing Frankie Edgar.
Following his setback to Guida, Pettis reeled off three straight wins before getting a rematch with Henderson. After some spirited exchanges, the fight spilled to the ground, where Pettis popped Henderson’s elbow with the armbar.