Anthony Pettis reflects on first year in PFL: ‘Last season was probably the worst that I ever had’


Jumping from the UFC to the PFL was a bigger adjustment than Anthony Pettis realized, but with one full year under his belt, the former UFC and WEC lightweight champion believes he is now better prepared to add another belt to his collection.

Pettis quit the UFC last year after almost a decade with the organisation to sign with The Professional Fighters League. Pettis was quickly tapped to be the favorite for the 2021 lightweight season. Pettis lost both his fights in the decision. It was a year that Pettis would like to forget — and one he says came down in large part to the difference between the PFL and the UFC.

” “It was terrible,” Pettis stated Monday on The MMA Hour . “Now that I’m talking about seasons, I can talk about my season. This season was the most difficult I have ever experienced. I didn’t know what to expect. Coming from the format that I fought on, which was like, take a fight, take my time off, as much as I need to get my body right, and then get back into camp and fight again. That was my timeline, whereas in the PFL you take your fight, you’ve got eight weeks to get ready for the next one, eight weeks to get ready for the next one, no matter what happens in the fight.

“So strategically, I came in there trying to be ‘Showtime’ and do these cartwheel kicks and all these crazy things in the first fight, and it didn’t play in my favor. I almost caught him, but I lost all three rounds pretty much. Next, the second fight is where I fight Raush [Manfio, PFL’s 2021 lightweight champion],, the world champion, who was just defeated. I focused on boxing as the PFL canvas was extremely slippery. Every time I tried to throw a high kick, or any other type of kick, I fell. So I never fought on that type of canvas for a long time. I’ve been fighting on the UFC canvas for my whole career pretty much. So it was a lot of new things that happened.”

The change in format is a pretty big one for Pettis. The eight-week turnaround between his fights in the PFL represents the shortest time between fights since he joined the UFC in 2011. But now that he’s been through it once before, Pettis believes he’s better prepared for this season.

” Having to wait between fights for your body to recover and bounce back, or to jump in the water was different for me,” Pettis stated. It is something I have come to understand this time. The bulk of training must be at the front and fights need to be planned strategically.

It wasn’t only the format that got Pettis in trouble. The PFL postponed their 2020 season due to the COVID pandemic, and when they returned for 2021, the organization implemented safeguards to minimize risk, including a bubble which required fighters to check in 17 days in advance of their fights. And for Pettis, that was arguably the biggest difference maker.

“All of it got to me,” Pettis said. “The biggest thing that got to me was the quarantine. It was a nightmare. We were forced to travel there and spend 17 days in the bubble they created for us. They spent a lot of money on that setup for us, to make sure the tournament could play on. But sitting in that hotel room away from my family, my girl’s about to give birth — there was a lot at play that made me not want to be mentally there in that hotel room. It kind of felt like I was in jail. Bro, if this is how jail feels, I never want to go to jail. It’s too much. So doing both of those quarantines, mentally it gave me time to think about everything. It was nerve-racking.

“I’ve been working on my mental training a lot these last couple years,” Pettis continued, “but to be there with your thoughts for 17 days and without my family and without the amenities that I’m used to of a fight week — being able to run outside and cut some weight, we had scheduled time for treadmills — it was just a lot to adjust to. Coming from the UFC to the PFL with all the COVID rules, there were a lot of adjustments that didn’t go my way. Now I know where I am. The past is not my fault. All I can do is change what happens this year. I’m definitely more aware of how these seasons work this time around.”

The PFL is set to being their 2022 season on April 20. Pettis doesn’t currently have an opponent or date set, but is likely to fight either April or May.