UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis hasn’t spent a whole lot of time in the cage the last few years and he’s just fine with that.
Pettis has competed just three times since the start of 2012, winning all three fights in the first round.
The 27-year-old Milwaukee, Wis., native expects his first title defense, a Dec. 6 matchup with top contender Gilbert Melendez on the UFC 181 card at Mandalay Bay, to be another brief experience.
“I definitely have the skill set to make it happen,” Pettis said. “He can’t find sparring partners to do the things I’m going to do and get him ready for the techniques I’m going to throw at him. For sure, I think I can finish him in the first round. I’m definitely predicting that.”
While the quick finishes don’t bother Pettis, he does believe there is a belief among fans that he needs to be more tested to truly earn respect.
The champion disagrees.
“My objective is to make it look easy. I think I’m doing that. At the same time, it takes away from the fans’ perception of me. They’re like, ‘Yeah, he’s pretty good.’ But they don’t know how good I really am,” Pettis said. “I’m finishing these guys so quick. You see (Donald) Cerrone fight three rounds and everybody’s like, ‘He’s a warrior. He’s crazy.’ I finished him in two minutes. It’s a weird sport man.
“I’m the champ for a reason. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, stay level headed, stay true to myself and I should be fine.”
One thing he hopes doesn’t continue is his trouble with knee injuries. Another reason he has spent so few actual minutes in the cage is that he pulled out of a featherweight title bout against Jose Aldo in June 2013 because he was hurt. The injury turned out fairly minor and Pettis accepted a fight against Benson Henderson for the lightweight title in August.
Pettis won the belt with a first-round submission, but has yet to defend the title because he underwent surgery to repair a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and was forced to pull out of a fight with Josh Thomson last December.
The champion insists he’s not injury prone and the knee won’t be a lingering issue. He says the issue has become a talking point because of the high-profile nature of the fights of the fights from which he withdrew.
Now he’s healthy and ready to prove it. He spent several months this year coaching against Melendez on the season of “The Ultimate Fighter” that is currently airing on Fox Sports 1 and is anxious to get back in the cage.
Pettis said any frustration from being out of action for so long has little to do with the fact he hasn’t been able to defend the title.
“It’s not just the belt situation. If they were to take the belt from me for whatever reason, it is what it is,” he said. “But just not being able to train was tough. My job is to train and get better as a martial artist. I had to get surgery and go six months without kicking. It was a rough six months, but I’m back now.”
He will have the chance to prove it against Melendez. Pettis said he knows what to expect against Melendez and every other fighter who challenges him.
While Pettis has won four fights in a row and eight of his last nine, the lone defeat came against Clay Guida in June 2011. Guida neutralized Pettis’s dynamic striking attack by repeatedly taking him to the ground and holding his position.
The loss frustrated Pettis, who vowed to improve his takedown defense. He insists he has done so and says he will never allow such a game plan to be executed against him again.
“(Melendez’s) best bet and everybody’s best bet, they all know this and I know it, they’re all going to try to take me down and do what Guida did,” Pettis said. “That was (three) years ago. That’s not going to happen again.”
The fight between Pettis and Melendez is part of an event headlined by a welterweight title rematch between Robbie Lawler and champion Johny Hendricks.
Former boxing champion Holly Holm, undefeated in seven fights since switching to MMA, will make her UFC debut against Raquel Pennington.
KOREAN ZOMBIE TAKES HIATUS — UFC featherweight contender Chan Sung Jung has been out of action for more than a year due to a shoulder injury suffered during a title fight loss to champion Jose Aldo in August 2013.
He won’t be returning any time soon.
Jung, known as “The Korean Zombie,” announced on Facebook on Monday he will serve his two-year mandatory military service in South Korea and be unable to compete during that time.
South Korean males are expected to serve two years before they reach the age of 30. Jung is expected to report for duty on Oct. 20.
Jung was ahead of Aldo on the scorecards early, but separated his shoulder while attempting a punch. He also suffered a fractured orbital and a broken bone in his right foot during the fight and Aldo capitalized with a fourth-round knockout.
TUFF-N-UFF EVENT — Las Vegas-based amateur organization Tuff-N-Uff will hold an event in the Mardi Gras Ballroom at The Orleans on Friday.
The card, which begins at 7 p.m., is headlined by a bout between undefeated bantamweight Ruben Perez and Las Vegan Carlos Perez.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-224-5509.