Five Rounds: Anthony Pettis talks all things UFC

ByBrett Okamoto ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Each week, writer Brett Okamoto provides his take on the hottest topics in the world of mixed martial arts.

This week, Okamoto squares off with former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis to debate all things MMA ahead of his Saturday showdown against Charles Oliveira at UFC Fight Night in Vancouver, British Columbia. Pettis (18-5) is in a three-fight losing streak for the first time in his career but hopes to stop it against Oliviera.

1. UFC president Dana White has said he will not book a trilogy fight between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz immediately. Is the UFC taking a risk by not doing so?

Pettis: The risk is people forgetting about it and not caring anymore. It was a close fight. It could have gone either way. There was a case for either side winning that fight. I'm not sure exactly what the UFC's plan is on it. It was a good fight, so I'd watch it again. Why not? A trilogy fight would be a hard one to call. They both had some strong points. If Diaz can put some more pressure on him in the second and third round when he gasses, I think Diaz could take it. Conor, I don't think he can finish Nate. If he could he would have early in that fight; he had him wobbled twice.

Okamoto: Absolutely not. I know everyone has McGregor/Diaz fever right now, but honestly, I wouldn't even like the idea of cramming this trilogy into one year. It's unnecessary. A third fight will be insanity whenever it happens -- let it sit for now. To me, it can only get bigger. Imagine if one wins a title at lightweight and their final chapter plays out with a belt on the line. And if the worst happens -- both stumble and lose between now and then -- you can still revisit this rivalry. Play the prefight, postfight highlights and we'll all come back. Zero risk in skipping this trilogy fight for now.

2. Whom should McGregor fight next?

Pettis: Conor McGregor should be fighting ... I don't know, Jose Aldo is the one with the interim belt. I'd like to see that get figured out before he starts moving around different weight classes. Yeah, I would say Jose Aldo. Most definitely a rematch would look different. I think Aldo would not come out as crazy as he did last time, not be as stupid as he was. Conor is one of them guys, though, who definitely has some skills. He's a big dude to be making 145. I'm similar size to him and I'm making that cut to 145 now, too.

Okamoto: Lightweight champEddie Alvarez. As I've said before, this entire thing started with a 155-pound championship between McGregor and Rafael dos Anjos. A broken foot, plus McGregor's willingness to accept a last-second change in opponent, took us on a serious detour. I'm in favor of heading back to the starting line. McGregor can fight very comfortably at lightweight -- he's not killing himself to make weight, nor is he facing guys who are too big for him. Alvarez wants a big name, and as deep as that lightweight division is (and as good as Khabib Nurmagomedov is), there's not a "must-see" title fight that would prevent McGregor from getting the next title shot.

3. If McGregor does not return to featherweight to defend his title, whom should interim champion Jose Aldo fight next?

Pettis: I have no idea. I honestly haven't even looked that high up. I know he just beat Frankie Edgar, so whoever is behind Edgar. I've got to go handle business this weekend and then we can start putting my name in the mix.

Okamoto: A ranked lightweight. If McGregor says, "Eh, I'm not interested in featherweight anymore. Keep the toy belt, I'm heading to lightweight," Aldo's response should be, "In that case, I'm heading to lightweight, too." Let's be real for a minute: McGregor punked Aldo in 2015. Beat him up, verbally, at one press conference after another and then dropped him in 13 seconds. It's on Aldo to get that fight back. McGregor chased him for two years because he was the champion. Now it's Aldo who needs to chase. Accept and win fights that force that rematch. Aldo is more than capable of doing that. He's one of the best fighters in the world. What if Aldo chased McGregor to 155, beat anyone that dared stand in his way and set up that second fight? Can you imagine how big that would be?

4. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is "gathering information" on Nate Diaz's admitted use of CBD oil at the UFC 202 press conference. Should USADA be investigating this?

Pettis: No, I don't think so. I'm not really familiar with the rules on how they test for that, but it's after the fight. I'm pretty sure the amount of THC from that wouldn't be high enough that it would matter. He was kind of pushing the rules, I guess, he's doing it right in front of everybody, but yeah -- I don't know. I don't have a strong opinion on it.

Okamoto: The unfortunate answer is yes. And the reason for that is that's what they're here for. UFC partnered with USADA to establish a strict drug testing environment. Under USADA's rules, what Diaz did is a potential violation -- so for them to just ignore it? They can't. HOWEVER. Any kind of suspension for this would, in my opinion, go against the spirit of the program, which is made to be strict but is not made to bury an athlete who is not seeking any performance-enhancing ability whatsoever. If USADA finds a rule was violated, the punishment should be a public warning and that is it. Rules are rules and I'm all for upholding them, but there is also room for common sense to prevail in this program, and I hope that will be the case.

5. UFC Fight Night this weekend features a main event between Demian Maia and Carlos Condit. What is more difficult to prepare for: Maia's ground game or Condit's striking?

Pettis: They're both dangerous. I've trained with Carlos; to see the way he's attacking this fight is interesting. I think both of them, you can't catch up to these guys. Condit has years and years of striking experience and Maia, years and years of grappling. Only difference is grappling changes when you're getting punched in the face, so it all depends on how Condit uses his striking to an advantage when it comes to the grappling.

Okamoto: Have to say Maia's ground game. That doesn't mean I think Maia is better than Condit -- I'm just saying, in terms of which strength is most difficult to prepare for ... it's Maia. Condit's volume is dizzying. He's outclassed some phenomenal fighters with the angles he creates, the movement, versatility. It's a difficult style to beat. But Maia's ground game, you really can't make a mistake. You let Maia into your hips for half a second, he's glued to you the rest of the round. Especially when he's fresh at the start of the fight, Maia will take advantage of any physical or mental pause his opponent takes. Again, doesn't mean I'm calling him a better overall welterweight than Condit, but his grappling is one of the most menacing skills this sport has.