Anthony Pettis WEC debut June 7

Unbeaten Anthony Pettis Talks 'Showtime,' Tough Times and The Big Time

By Frank Curreri

"Don't ever let another man put fear in your heart, no matter how big he is, no matter how much talking he does. Never let a man put fear in your heart."

That unwavering fearlessness burned inside of Eugene Pettis, and shaped the core of his self-identity, and he tried to religiously instill the same warrior mentality in his three sons, figuring it would help them survive the south side of Milwaukee's mean streets. The block where the Pettises lived had all the trappings of inner city ghettos – the dangerous concoction of poverty, an out-in-the-open drug trade, gangs and shootings. Over the years, Eugene Pettis had carved quite a reputation for himself in the neighborhood, so when Anthony and his brothers introduced themselves to strangers and mentioned the last name "Pettis" – a lot of people perked up and instantly showed respect.

"You're Eugene's son? Well then I better not mess with you. You must be tough."

That was the vibe many people projected upon first meeting Anthony Pettis. He still enjoys that "street cred" today, six years after the most turbulent episode of his young life.

"When I was 16 years old I lost my father in a robbery," said Pettis, now a 22-year-old mixed martial artist.
"He was at a friend's house and some people broke inside. He was stabbed three times in the chest."
It was Nov. 12, 2003. Eugene Pettis, a married father of three, a janitor who sometimes skipped dinner so there was enough food for his children, who worked two jobs so his kids could go to Catholic schools and train in Taekwondo and some day pursue opportunities that had passed him by, died right across the street from his home. He was 46.

"I was sad, I was angry. I felt every emotion you could go through," Anthony Pettis said.

Anthony Pettis, who had resisted the temptations, fast-money and illicit activities that had ensnared many of his friends and family members, contemplated going to the dark side. But there was at least one good reason not to.

"I needed to be strong for my little brother who didn't have a dad anymore," he said. "I wanted to be an example for him."

The fact that Anthony Pettis graduated from high school, and has never been arrested, and has never sold drugs, may strike a lot of people who were raised in the suburbs or come from middle or upper-class upbringings as no big deal. But when you consider Anthony Pettis' pedigree and the seedy surroundings to which he was a captive audience, his ability to steer clear of trouble is no small accomplishment.

"In Milwaukee, it's not all just dairy products out here, man, it's just like any other place," he said. "You have shootings, you have violence, there is so much negative stuff going on. A lot of my friends are locked up or dead now. My dad was a streetfighter. He had a reputation for streetfighting and he was in a gang. But he did his best to keep me out of that life."

In some ways, Anthony Pettis has followed in his father's footsteps. He too is a fighter, only he handles his business inside rings or cages, not on street corners. There are rules and a referee inside of the cage, and hugs, handshakes and words of consolation for the loser. Those who will never meet Eugene Pettis can catch a glimpse of his spirit when they see his second-oldest offspring fight. When the lights come on, Anthony Pettis is as tenacious and aggressive as they come. He fights like you stole something from him or said something derogatory about his mother. A protégé of renowned Muay Thai trainer Duke Roufus, Pettis has overwhelmed opponents with rapid-fire combinations of heavy-handed punches, high kicks, knees and elbows to the face. He is a fight fan's dream come true – a young man that unleashes every blow with the intent of seeing the other guy hit the deck. Neither Pettis nor his coach, Roufus, deny that there is something streetfighter-esque about Pettis' style.

"That's what I like about him, he's still got that edge, you know?" said Roufus, who has trained Pettis for the past two and ½ years. "The last thing I want is for him to go out there and only play technical. At the end of the day it's a fight and that's an element a lot of guys don't have in MMA. I mean technically they may be great, but they don't have the mentality to go out there and bring the heat. And he's definitely got that. He's half-Puerto Rican, half-Mexican and he definitely fights like a Latin warrior.

"You don't want to be just another fighter, just another product. If you don't have that, 'I'm going to make my opponent suffer' attitude, then you shouldn't be fighting. It's a game of dominance. You have to get in there and dominate your opponent, whether it's physically or mentally. Sometimes fighting is just a good guy feeling bad. Why not get in the cage and bring that angst into the cage and take it out on your opponent. That's a healthy way to channel the energy."

Pettis, whose family name had been Perez before his grandfather changed it to avoid possible discrimination in America, is unbeaten through six pro fights and has finished all but one of his foes (the exception being Sherron Leggett, whom Pettis defeated by split decision). Pettis' entertaining style and knack for rising to the occasion prompted Roufus to nickname him "Showtime."

"In the gym he did OK, he was this quiet respectful kid who said 'Yes sir, no sir,'" Roufus said. "But the second the horn or the bell sounded, he turned into someone else. He just explodes, he's a windmill and its Showtime. Some guys can't keep that pace, and they are awesome in the gym but just OK for fights. But Anthony is the type of fighter that can keep that pace throughout the entire fight. The guy gets up for fights."

Though predominantly considered a striker, Pettis trains Brazilian jiu-jitsu under UFC veteran and fellow Wisconsinite Eric Schafer. Pettis is a white belt, but he and Roufus insist he is not one-dimensional.

"To me he's like a GSP type of fighter," Roufus said, daring to compare his prodigy to Georges St-Pierre, regarded as one of the best fighters in the world at any weight class. "Anthony is an incredible athlete and very intelligent. He picks up things so quickly; he has the work ethic and tenacity. He's good at everything. Everybody is worried about his striking but he's a very dangerous grappler too."

The 5-feet-11-inch lightweight will make his WEC debut on June 7 in Sacramento, when he is slated to face Mike Campbell, a hard-hitting Bostonian who is making the drop from welterweight to lightweight. The undercard matchup of willing sluggers has Fight of the Night potential. Yet Pettis said that in the cage he does not play to the crowd, but simply does what comes naturally. He imagines that his father, were he alive today, would be proud. Authorities have never apprehended Eugene Pettis' killer. There have been no arrests and no credible leads.

"It's still unsolved and I'd rather keep it that way," Anthony Pettis said. "When it was fresh I wanted to know what went wrong, what happened. Now if I found out who did it, if I had a face ... after what they put me through, I wouldn't want to hate somebody that much. I'd rather not know."

His father's influence and death still motivate him. His father drilled into him that anything less than first place is "not good enough." But the son says, despite the ferocity and fury his alter ego unleashes in the cage, none of that emotion stems from his father's death.

"I'm not venting my anger out on my opponent," he said. "I just love martial arts. My mom has worked so hard for us, she put us through Catholic schools ... I just really want to buy my mom a house and do for her what she did for me. That's my motivation when I'm training – my family. I know I can be the best, I know I'm on my way to being the best. I just need to train hard and keep leading my life the right way."

 ttt for WEC 41 

Mike Campbell 6-1-0 Vs. Anthony Pettis 6-0-0 

Mike Campbell

good luck anthony!

congrats duke!

duke- you gonna be at madtown saturday?

Congrats Ant!!!


I be there cornering Rob Smith in the 205 title fight

Good seeing you Rand!


 Anthony fought a great fight, nice transitions and that head kick was nice. He looked awesome, can't wait to see how far he can go. 



 Congratulations Anthony