UFC lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis is nearly 100 percent healed from his knee surgery back in December and is gearing up to coach the first ever UFC women’s strawweights in the upcoming 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Coaching opposite Pettis will be No. 1 lightweight contender and former StrikeForce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. The two men will ultimately fight for the title in December, once the show is finished and aired.
Prior to starting his coaching stint on the Ultimate Fighter this week, Pettis signed a sponsorship deal with one of the leading companies in sneakers and apparel in Reebok. This comes just one week after news broke that Pettis signed a sponsorship deal with the famed cereal brand Wheaties.
Pettis recently sat down with FanSided for an exclusive interview to catch up on all of the exciting developments going on in his career including the Reebok sponsorship, coaching TUF 20, and fighting Gilbert Melendez:
His new sponsorship deal with Reebok
“It’s crazy to be part of the team at Reebok. The opportunity to be with a company like Reebok is truly amazing for me. Now that they are recognizing the sport of MMA and getting involved, it is great for everybody. The fact that I will be the face of the ZJET shoe is amazing. Performance wise, in MMA you are always looking to get the best results. You always want the fastest time on your sprint or the longest distance on your runs, and this shoe helps me do that. Quality company, quality shoe and I love using it. It’s one of those things where if I were not sponsored by it, I would go out and buy it.”
How he felt after his first kicking session since his surgery
“[My knee] feels good. We really just made sure that we did what the doctor said. He said to go six months without impact and that’s what we did. We got in there and I didn’t push it too hard. I probably won’t be fighting until December, so for me it is just making sure it feels right and get past it. I am still young in this sport, I just turned 27, so I have a long time left. I want to make sure I do this thing right.”
The Ultimate Fighter 20
“It is going to be interesting. You add the female flair into fighting and living in the house together, I am sure it’s going to make for some crazy TV. It is cool to know that whoever wins this season is going to be the champion. I get to help one of these females make their dreams come true of being a UFC champion. I know how important that dream was for me, and now I get to see that process happen in six weeks. It took me way longer than that to become a champion.”
Any fighters you are looking at prior to the show as favorites?
“You know what? I am letting my coaches do that. My job is going to be to connect with them, give them my outlook on training, but I really just listen to my coaches. That is what has made me a champion, so that’s what I will give to them. They will have my whole coaching staff: my strength and condition coach, my nutritionist, my kickboxing coach, my boxing coach, and even my little brother is coming out as well. I am basically going to bring my whole camp out there. Whoever is on my team will get the full experience of what made me a champion.”
What advantages do you have over Gilbert Melendez?
“I really don’t think about my training camps that way. I don’t like to say that I have advantages or really need to focus on this or that. I am focused on becoming a better athlete all around. That is the only thing that keeps me on top of my game. I can’t think about what he is good at or what I have to avoid. The focus is on how can I become a better fighter and better athlete.”
Motivation as a champion
“What keeps me motivated is my little brother. He is at the bottom of the barrel in the Octagon right now. I mean he just signed with the UFC, he is 20 years old, and he is not even a factor yet. But, to see how hard he trains and to see how motivated he is, it makes me remember how hard I worked to get here. It reminds me when I used to wake up for practice when I wasn’t getting paid a lot of money and when I did not have anything. I kind of just surround myself with my family. My cousin is also trying to be a fighter as well. To see their struggle and how motivated they are to train motivates me every day.”
Who else do you see vying for the title next year?
“I can’t even say that guy’s name (Khabib Nurmagomedov), but that’s one of the guys I think could be vying for the title soon. He is pretty good. I beat Donald Cerrone, I beat Benson Henderson twice, and Gilbert Melendez is No. 2 in the world right now so it makes sense I am fighting him. Besides that, I am not really looking past the top 5. Whoever is in the top 5 I could potentially be fighting. If I looked at the whole list of the UFC’s lightweight division I would never sleep because there are so many good guys.”