Anthony Pettis has announced that he is leaving the UFC and will explore free agency. The former lightweight champion finished his UFC career with a unanimous decision victory over Alex Morono last weekend at UFC Vegas 17.
Following the Morono bout, Pettis announced his intentions to explore free agency but also said his best-case scenario would be signing once again with the UFC and completing a rematch with Tony Ferguson. This now looks unlikely with Pettis officially hitting the free-agent market and reports suggest that the 33-year-old will sign with Bellator.
“Almost 12 years with this company and so many amazing memories. From winning my first world title at 23 years old to becoming the UFC world champion at 26 in my hometown,” Pettis said in an open letter posted on Twitter. “From being on MTV to the cover of the Wheaties box, I am forever grateful for everything I have experienced and accomplished with this company!!!
“Dana – thank you for everything you have done for me. I was just a kid from the south side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin with a big dream. You helped me turn that dream into a reality. THANK YOU!!!
“Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, Reed Harris, Sean Shelby, Dave Sholler, and Burt Watson, you have helped me and impacted my life and career in countless ways. I will be forever thankful. Everyone at the PI, you helped take my game to the next level! Everyone that works behind the scenes, I am so grateful for your tireless work, especially on the road, you have no idea how much you are appreciated. Thank YOU!!!
“Last and most importantly the UFC fans … thank you!!! You gave me energy in every fight. I hope I have been able to you that ANYTHING is possible. I am excited about my future in this sport. I promise I am not done.”
Pettis, who has a professional record of 24-10, has been in the UFC since 2011 and boasts a record of 11-9 in the Octagon. The Wisconsin fighter won the UFC lightweight championship at UFC 164 in August 2013 when he submitted Benson Henderson to win the belt and defended it once against Gilbert Melendez at UFC 181 before dropping it to Rafael dos Anjos in an upset at UFC 185.
During his UFC career, Pettis fought in three weight classes — 145lbs, 155lbs, and 170lbs — and picked up notable wins over Donald Cerrone (twice), Stephen Thompson, Joe Lauzon, Jeremy Stephens, Michael Chiesa, Jim Miller, and Charles Oliveira.
“I had heard it was the last fight,” former UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier said of Pettis. “You don’t make much of it when a guy’s getting ready to compete. With that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with his brother, but I do believe that Anthony Pettis is such a high-level fighter, he can go wherever he wants.”
Speculation on Pettis’ future and potential matchups is already rife. One of the most talked about potential matchups is a would-be clash of flashy strikers in Pettis against British welterweight standout, Michael ‘Venom’ Page. For the fight to happen, Pettis would have to sign with Bellator, and Bellator President Scott Coker has already commented on the prospect of the fight.
“It would be a lot of fun,” Coker told MMA Junkie regarding a Pettis vs. MVP fight. “That would be amazing. We’ll see. There’s only so many slots on TV for us. We’ll be having 22 to 26 fights [in 2021], and it’ll all be mapped out sometime in the next three weeks and we’ll figure it out. We’ll have a conversation and see where it goes.”
Coker also shared that he personally has not been in contact with Anthony Pettis but believes his team has already had some level of discussion. Ultimately, the Bellator boss believes it comes down to the value Pettis can bring to his promotion going forward.
“Really it’s like, how much does he have left in the gas tank?” Coker pondered. “But we’ll definitely have that conversation, and we usually have that conversation with every free agent, whether we sign them or not. We’ll probably do the same thing with Pettis if we haven’t already done it.”
After achieving his first ever UFC unanimous decision over Alex Morono last weekend, Pettis is now on his first winning streak since he was champion six years ago. The veteran’s younger brother Sergio made his debut with Bellator in January 2020 and has won his first two fights with the company.
Coker’s comments, coupled with the fact that his brother competes there, mean that many predict that a deal between Pettis and the Bellator will be announced in the near future. Daniel Cormier has already predicted the move and if Pettis wishes to stay in North America, Bellator is probably the best fit for him, personally and professionally.