Was the real loser of UFC 125 WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis? Some have suggested as much. What was supposed to be the event where his next opponent would emerge instead only complicated his future and left more questions. Pettis had the best year of his career in 2010, but carrying that momentum forward into the WEC will be harder than ever. Here's how Fox Sports thinks matters could play out:
The most obvious and pressing one is what Pettis' next move will be. Unlike higher-profile and wealthier fighters such as Rashad Evans, Pettis is poorly positioned to retreat to the sidelines and wait for his promised title match. Not only would that risk squandering the momentum he built with his career-best performance against Ben Henderson, but it means he would forgo income for a prolonged period of time. A career spent receiving minuscule WEC payments would surely make Pettis quibble at the thought of waiting until the fall without fighting.
One possible solution would be for him to defend his lightweight title against a fellow former WEC fighter, possibly Donald Cerrone, as a way to not only keep him busy, but also to fully introduce him and the title to the UFC fans before the unification fight.
The bigger problem is what the fallout from Saturday night's title fight means for the wider lightweight title scene. With Maynard getting an instant rematch and with Pettis on some level promised the one after that, the likes of Clay Guida, Jim Miller and George Sotiropoulos all face a frustrating year in which a title shot is nothing but a distant dream.
As I've said before, I don't see how Guida can string enough top shelf wins together to get a title shot in an incredibly deep division. The same goes for Jim Miller. George Sotiropoulos may have more upside, but I'm cautious about over selling where he can go. If those guys have to wait, so be it. That's not the major concern here.
Pettis is young and developing, so he shouldn't feel under pressure to his his entrance into the UFC as the moment to begin carving out a legacy. However, my sense is Pettis has to take the Chuck Liddell route here. In other words, long before UFC 47, Liddell was looking for a title shot against Tito Ortiz. Unable to get it in the time frame he wanted, he didn't want to remain inactive, so he continued to take fights. Most notably, he fought the very skilled, very dangerous Renato Sobral. What eventually happened was one of the greatest knockouts of his career. The point is this: Pettis is on a hot streak, is healthy and risks losing both career and talent progression with an extended layoff. If he takes a fight in the interim, he loses his title shot. That's certainly a risk. But given how young he is (currently 23 years old), he's got plenty of time to make for whatever setback an interim loss forces. If he were 30, the calculation would be different, but he's only legally been drinking for two years. He's still wet behind the ears.
Now is not the time to worry about whether another title shot will ever come his way. There are certainly no guarantees in life, but it stands to reason Pettis will be a contender for quite some time. And the last thing he should be doing is slowing his development in terms of talent or killing the incredible promotional momentum he has created for himself the last 12 months.
The best option would be to get the title shot next, but that's gone. Accept it and move on. Find another opponent. Stay hungry. Keep getting better and have the confidence to know that whether it's this year or the next, a title shot is coming your way. That's how he got the WEC title in the first place.