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PFL is ‘totally different from anything I’ve ever experienced’ - Anthony Pettis talks MMA season format

The former UFC champion is in the middle of his second season with the Professional Fighter’s League, and he’s had to make some adjustments.

Anthony Pettis celebrates after his 2020 victory over Donald Cerrone.
Anthony Pettis celebrates after his 2020 victory over Donald Cerrone.
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

All things considered, Anthony Pettis barely got to experience a pro MMA career outside the Zuffa umbrella before signing with the Professional Fighters League in 2021. The former WEC & UFC lightweight champion spent just two years fighting on the regional MMA circuit, entirely with the now-defunct Gladiators Cage Fighting promotion, before getting signed to World Extreme Cagefighting back in 2009.

For more than a decade following, Pettis would be a staple of the WEC and UFC, competing at least once a year every year for the (eventually merged) sister promotions—up until his 2020 departure from the world’s largest mixed martial arts organization.

But, if Pettis had quickly risen to stardom and title contention in the past, his landing in the PFL was not so soft. Pettis suffered back to back losses, to Clay Collard and Raush Manfio, in his debut year with his new fighting home—failing to make the playoffs in the process. In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, the long time Roufusport talent talked about the struggles with adapting to PFL’s unique ‘season’ format.

“It’s totally different from anything I’ve ever experienced,” Pettis said. “For my UFC and WEC career, all my other fights, I would have the fight, have a hard training camp and then have as much time off as I needed to recover and have another fight. This format, that’s not the case.

“I fight June 24, and I fight again August 5. That’s like six weeks between fights. You’ve got to take that into consideration. Like I can’t go have a war on June 24 and be 100 percent for Aug. 5. So you’ve got to take care of your body. You’ve got to make sure you’re approaching these fights the smartest way possible as opposed to going out there and have a war and be entertaining. I’m always entertaining, but I’m not forcing the entertainment aspect of it. I’m focused on the win and getting these points.”

‘Showtime’ added that, especially late in his career, he appreciates the ability to “stay busy” with the PFL. There’s the potential that he could compete as much as four times in a single year if he can make it all the way to the playoff finals. But lots of fights can mean lots of travel. To combat that difficulty, this year the 35-year-old has taken the extra step of moving his whole camp out to Las Vegas.

“I think last year with the COVID protocols, we had to leave three weeks before the fight. We were stuck in a bubble for three weeks, in between both fights, it just felt like a lot of time away. I was bouncing back and forth between Milwaukee and Vegas for my training camps back then, and now I’m 100 percent out here in Vegas. I bring my team out here. I feel a lot more comfortable in this format of training now.”

The 2022 season is already off to a better start for Pettis, with a first round submission victory over Myles Price at PFL 3 back on May 6th. Pettis is next scheduled to face fellow Octagon veteran Stevie Ray at PFL 5 on June 24th. A victory there will ensure his entry into the playoff rounds and a chance at PFL’s $1 million tournament prize.