Anthony Pettis defended his UFC Lightweight Championship for the first time at UFC 181 this weekend, and the dynamic fighter says the victory was the best way possible to silence his haters.
Sure, Pettis has a considerable fanbase and is widely regarded to be one of the top fighters on the planet, but it’s no secret he took his fair share of verbal shots over the last year or so. After all, Pettis hadn’t fought since last August, when he tapped out Benson Henderson to grab the belt, and plenty of folks believed an interim title should have been promoted.
Not only that, but Pettis has been dealing with repeated callouts from other contenders like Mr. Khabib Nurmagomedov, who are anxious to face the lightweight champ.
Following “Showtime’s” second round, submission win over Gilbert Melendez on Saturday night, Pettis had this to say about the victory and his critics (quotes via MMA Junkie.com):
“The best way is to prove them wrong,” Pettis said. “For me, I was injured, so I couldn’t really prove myself or fight. I had to be quiet and just let them talk. Tonight, I was able to prove everybody wrong.”
“Last year was a long year for me,” Pettis noted. “Fifteen months off was a long time. The Wheaties contest was going on, I had my fight coming up, so there was a lot of pressure on me going into this fight. I just feel like I locked in on training, and I fell in love with the sport again.”
Saturday was indeed a big and impressive win for Pettis, as Melendez certainly made him work for the victory. The bout marked just the fourth time Pettis has fought since 2011, but hopefully the champion can stay healthy and fight at least twice in 2015.
Who will be next though? From a rankings perspective, it certainly should be Nurmagomedov, but ya never know.