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WEC 53: Anthony Pettis Talks Jersey Shore, Reggie Bush And Beating Ben Henderson
When you get the call to chat with one of the hottest young stars in MMA today—especially when he's preparing for the biggest fight of his career—you could ask the same old tired questions and get the same old tired story angles you'll read all week long.
But Anthony Pettis—the No. 1 contender for the WEC Lightweight Championship held by Ben Henderson—deserves better than that, especially considering he is set to battle Henderson Thursday in the final event in WEC history.
As part of our WEC 53 coverage, here's 10 questions with "Showtime" where we hit on Milwaukee, owning three businesses at 23-years-old and why he'll be the champ come Friday morning.
What's your favorite thing to do in Milwaukee?
To train and spend time with the family, man. I have a huge family so when we have a get together, it's just a good time.
Do you think you're one of the top five pro athletes in the city? There's the Brewers and Bucs, but c'mon now.
Nah, I don't think so. There's a good MMA culture, but not enough to put me in the top five athletes. I'm starting to get more of a name with the media recognition, but until more people understand mixed martial arts and what it is, I don't think MMA guys will get the respect they deserve yet.
What makes Duke Roufus such a good coach?
I think it's his experience. He's been where we are and is experienced as a fighter. He understands what we are going through daily and what's going through our minds. This guy really understands fighting. He's probably one of the best unknown coaches out there right now.
After the World of Jenks appearances, you're a big MTV star. Are you a Jersey Shore or Real World guy?
I'm more of a Jersey Shore guy. That's probably one of my favorite shows when it first comes out. When I saw it in the first season, I was like, "Who is going to watch this?" and then you're hooked. They're just normal guys and they've become celebrities off of that. They really have no special abilities, but their personalities and what they do makes them watchable people.
What celebrity that you've met has made you star-struck?
I was at a UFC show in Vegas, and I was two rows behind Reggie Bush. I had seen him playing football and the Kim Kardashian show, so that was a big one. I also met (boxer) Miguel Cotto. He came out to Miguel Torres' fight against Joe Benavidez. I sat right next to him and took a picture with him. It was an honor to be that close to him. He recognized me and said I was a good fighter. I was like, "This is Miguel Cotto...this is crazy!"
Who has been your biggest inspiration in MMA?
I don't look at fighters and say "I want to be that fighter." I like all the champions like Anderson Silva. He's held the belt for a long time, he's a respectable dude and he's a great champion. GSP, Lyoto (Machida) when he was champion, Shogun (Rua), all the top guys. I look up to all these guys and their qualities. I try to mold my own style after everybody and make my own style.
You'll be fighting alongside those guys when the WEC merges with the UFC in 2011. How did you first hear the news?
I was training at the gym and Duke mentioned it. I had heard it a lot of times already, so I was focusing on my fight training because I didn't know it was official. We're done training, I go to my car and I look at my text messages and (people were saying) the winner of our fight was fighting the winner of Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard.
I turned the car around and immediately went back to the gym. I was excited for the news, and it added more fuel to the fire. I'm already pretty excited to be fighting Ben Henderson and now with all of that, it just adds more.
What do you do to relax?
I play video games, and I like Call of Duty. I play a lot when I'm in training camp. When I'm not in camp, I run two martial arts gyms so I focus on running those, and I recently opened up a sports bar.
I'm a pretty busy guy inside and outside the cage, man. I also like to spend time with my family. I don't get to see them as much, so as much time as I can spend with them, I try to.
Owning a business is probably harder than being a mixed martial artist. It's a lot of work.
(A note if I could? Pettis is a 23-year-old pro athlete and owns three businesses. What are you doing right now?)
You'll be in the final WEC fight in company history. What will you best remember the WEC for?
Making me who I am. They're a great promotion, they put on great events, the fights are awesome and they gave me a home to show the world what I can do and to show everyone my skills. I'll be forever thankful for the WEC.
Why will Anthony Pettis be WEC Lightweight Champion after this event?
I know I'm going to be Lightweight Champion because I want this more than anybody. I've put all my blood, sweat and tears into this training camp and the only way Ben Henderson is beating me is if he's really, really better than me. There's no way I'm quitting, no way I'm giving up and I'm putting everything I got into this last fight.
Josh Nason is a New England-based freelance MMA journalist that covers live events, has written for FIGHT! Magazine and frequently does radio/podcast appearances. He asks for your "like" for ESPN Boston to cover MMA. Follow him on Twitter.