Former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis is finally making his PFL debut on Friday, and “Showtime” revealed to the media at the PFL 1 press conference on Tuesday the scariest part about the whole thing.
Pettis is set to take on former UFC contender and recent boxing star Clay Collard in the main event of PFL 1 on April 23. That fight will air on ESPN 2, and Pettis knows after being one of the biggest free-agent signings in recent MMA history, he’s sure to a massive target on his back.
“The scariest thing about this is he has nothing to lose,” Pettis said. “He can go out there, bite down on his mouthpiece and just go, and that’s what I’m trying not to get caught up in.”
Collard: ‘He’s Walking Around Like He Owns The Place’
Collard basically confirmed that was the plan when he expressed the thoughts and feelings he had about running to Pettis in the PFL’s Bubble at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“Yeah, we’ve run into each other in the hall. He’s walking around here like he owns the place. But what can you do?” Collard said.
What he can do is beat Pettis in the main event of PFL to kick off the company’s 2021 campaign with a serious bang. Collard’s been hyped about facing Pettis in his first fight of the new season since he got word of the matchup.
“I was actually very excited,” Collard said. “I was telling all the people I’m in touch with at the PFL that I wanted him or the champ [Natan Schulte] first, so…I like fighting the tough guys if you don’t know that yet.”
Pettis is among the toughest, but Collard is, too.
Collard Believes Boxing Is His Biggest Advantage
Collard made a name for himself in the sport of boxing last year. During the pandemic, Collard won five fights as a sweet scientist to surge toward Fighter of the Year candidacy. Now, the American wants to wreck both Pettis and his PFL championship plans.
“I think it helped me out tremendously boxing for that year,” Collard said.
Collard boxed last year, but he said he never stopped training in MMA. He doesn’t expect to have any trouble moving back over from the limited rule set used in boxing to the more robust set of skills needed two claim victory in MMA.
Still, Collard believes his time competing as a pro boxer over the last year is something that will help set him apart from Pettis and the other PFL lightweights.
“I believe boxers have the best hands around as far as when it comes to fighting,” Collard said. “You know, there’s kickboxing, Muay Thai, there’s all that, but I think boxing rules on the feet. So I think boxing is my advantage.”
Pettis Isn’t Overlooking PFL Opponents
Collard’s task won’t be easy. Pettis loves having a target on his back, and he expects to capture PFL gold later this year.
“I was the champion in every organization I fought in, so I’ve always had a target on my back,” Pettis said. “I kind of embrace that role. You know, I know what these guys are looking forward to.”
Pettis believes his WEC and UFC championship runs prove what kind of fighter is, and he plans on showing the same kind of quality under the PFL banner.
Still, Pettis also said he’s not overlooking Collard or any of the other stalwart PFL lightweights.
“There’s some good talent in this division, and I feel like I go to be sharp, I got to be smart, I got to be on my game. I don’t plan on…veering off from that at all,” Pettis said.
Adding PFL Gold Would Add To Impressive Legacy
Pettis is already one of the most decorated lightweights in MMA history. He enters the PFL waters knowing his legacy is already secure, but the fighter still wants to add another world championship to his collection.
“I think my legacy is already written, and it’s still going which is crazy,” Pettis said. “Before when I was coming up, I wanted to be remembered as the guy who would fight anybody, anywhere, anytime…now I have the opportunity to become a three [promotion] champion, a three organization champion, you know, and it’s going to be done in a year.”
Pettis is excited about the path ahead of him, even if the rest of the lightweights in MMA’s only league, including his first opponent Collard, returning two-time champion Schulte, and the other fighters, are sure to be gunning for him from the start.
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