Former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis once again finds himself with leverage following his stunning KO of Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at UFC Nashville, and his coach Duke Roufus wants him to get the most out of it.
Following the win, “Showtime” threw his hat in the perpetually crowded ring for a bout with Conor McGregor and he and Roufus are clearly on the same page. In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Roufus was asked about a potential rematch between Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos at 170 pounds, and he steered the conversation towards a meeting with “The Notorious” instead.
“The fight honestly that’s trippin’ my trigger, Conor commended Anthony after the fight and then said, ‘Who wants it?’ You know what, we want it,” Roufus said. “No disrespect, I like Conor a lot, I think he’s funny, he’s charismatic, obviously a great fighter. I think it’s just one of those fights that just like this ‘Wonderboy’ fight, it’s a fun fight. Just the stage of the career that Team Pettis is at, we want to close out the twilight of Anthony’s career over the next many years with ‘legacy brawls’, if you will.
“Let’s test some theories. Let’s test Conor’s left hand versus ‘Pettis-kwondo’, or as I call him, ‘The real life Ong-Bak’.”
The reference to Tony Jaa’s classic action film is appropriate given that Pettis’s moves inside the cage often defy belief. His Superman punch KO of Thompson would be the highlight of most fighters’ careers, but for many fans he will still always be known for the “Showtime kick” he landed on Benson Henderson in their first meeting at WEC 53, which capped off an outstanding five-round decision victory.
Though he’s just 32 years old, Pettis has competed professionally since 2007 and done so against elite competition for the bulk of his time in the sport. Win or lose, battles with Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway, Charles Oliveira, Edson Barboza, Eddie Alvarez, Gilbert Melendez, Donald Cerrone, dos Anjos, and Henderson, have left Pettis with as impressive a list of opponents as anyone in the lighter weight classes.
Heading into the next stage of his career, Roufus doesn’t see Pettis slowing down.
“When I say we want to fight Conor, we want to fight him because he’s one of the best. That’s why we’re in this,” Roufus said. “We’re not cherry picking. These are things that get us motivated to sacrifice the way we do and the way Anthony had to to win this fight. I just think it would be a fun fight. They’re both a lot alike. They’re charismatic, they’re flashy, dapper guys, they’re both great for this sport. I think the time is right and let’s do it July 6 on International Fight weekend.”
“Needless to say, we’re at this neat time in the sport where we gotta do fights for our sport to elevate our sport,” he continued. “And I think that’s what the Wonderboy fight was. … Our main source that drives this sport is the fans and that’s what Anthony Pettis lives for. Not the ego, I talked to him and he said, ‘Coach, I had so much fun in there the other night.’ As a coach and friend that makes me happy. Mike Tyson said it best, ‘A happy fighter is a dangerous fighter.’”