Exclusive – Anthony Pettis says Benson Henderson will have ‘Everything to Prove’ in Karate Combat clash

Anthony Showtime Pettis

Anthony Pettis will look to complete the trifecta against longtime rival Benson Henderson on December 15.

After competing for titles under the WEC and UFC banners, ‘Showtime’ and ‘Smooth’ will headline Karate Combat 43, completing their trilogy inside The Pit. With only two weeks to go until fight night, Anthony Pettis sat down with Danny Podolsky in a LowKick MMA exclusive interview to preview his third meeting with Henderson.

During their conversation, ‘Showtime’ revealed that he was training for a return to the boxing ring when he got the call to make his Karate Combat debut.

“I was actually getting ready for another boxing fight set up for February and I got the phone call,” Pettis said. “The opportunity popped up in my new hometown, Las Vegas, Nevada, against a guy that I have a lot of history with so I couldn’t pass this one up.”

Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson have fought on two separate occasions, the first coming at WEC 53 with the promotion’s lightweight title on the line. After five intense rounds of action, Pettis scored a unanimous decision victory, but not before landing one of the greatest highlights in MMA history, the legendary ‘Showtime’ kick.

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Pettis and Henderson would run it back three years later. This time, the UFC lightweight championship would be up for grabs. ‘Showtime’ went two-up on ‘Smooth’ with a first-round submission via arm bar.

Going into their clash at KC43, Pettis believes all the pressure will be on Henderson to finally break through and score a win in their iconic rivalry.

“He has everything to prove,” Pettis said. “He has to go out there and defend those losses. Our first fight was super close. It was a striking match for the first round. The second round was grappling. Third round we went back to striking, fourth round back to grappling. The fifth round ended up as a striking matchup and that’s where that ‘Showtime’ kick came from.

“The second fight, I just went out there and blasted him with body kicks and caught that armbar so he’s coming off of two losses [against me], but I have nothing, but respect for Ben as an athlete. He’s done some amazing things in the sport. He’s a super competitive guy. He’s still competing at high levels, but as a competitor, I’m gonna go out there and try to take his head off.”

Anthony Pettis is gunning for a KO against ‘Smooth’

With victories over Ben Henderson by submission and decision, ‘Showtime’ will be gunning for a knockout to complete his trifecta.

“This favors the knockout,” Pettis said. “Even though you can go to the ground and do ground and pound, you can still get a TKO, but this favors me getting the knockout. In MMA, Ben has great wrestling and great jiu-jitsu. I already knew that so I had to dumb my striking down a lot. I could throw a lot of flashy moves. I mean, the ‘Showtime’ kick was flashy, but it was at the end of the fight. I kept it super basic.

“I was throwing high kicks. I had to keep that low guard for the takedown and then he would put me on the cage a lot and use that grappling on the cage. That’s non-existent in this fight so I feel like it favors a knockout for sure. I’m not gonna go out there and force anything. I’m gonna go out there and have some fun. Be playful and use my karate stance.

“When I fight traditional martial arts, I fight right leg forward. In MMA I fought right leg back just because of the takedowns and the power side. This time you’ll see a mixture of both. I’m gonna go out there orthodox and southpaw. I’m gonna go out there and be playful.”

Karate Combat 43 will air live and for free on the promotion’s YouTube channel and via CBS Sports in North America.

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Watch the full exclusive interview below: