UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis has been sidelined since his epic title win back at UFC 164 in Milwaukee last year; ‘Showtime’ snatched the belt from old foe Benson Henderson with a fantastic first round armbar, but that was way back in August and now he awaits a comeback title defense against Gilbert Melendez.

That fight was originally scheduled for UFC 182 on January 3, 2015, but Pettis appeared on today’s The MMA Hour to proclaim that he will now be fighting Melendez before the end of the year:

“That’s what they told me, I just found it will be Dec. 6.”

The long-awaited bout will transpire after “Showtime” and “El Nino” coach The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20, and will mark more than a year since the last time either man fought in the octagon. Pettis described his disdain at all the talk about his time off from the cage an his return to training:

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I’m in training camp now, I’m out here in Vegas training and rolling. I gave my body enough time to heal. I couldnt turn down the TUF 20 coaching gig. I get the chance to boost my star power, train other places with different people. It’s hard being out this long and hearing everyone talking and doubting you. It’s part of the game, injuries happen.”

Injuries certainly do seem to have rocketed recently in MMA, and Pettis’ knee has been the subject of much chatter over the last year or so. This doesn’t just include banter between us geeks of the interwebs, it includes barbs from other fighters in the lightweight division. Pettis continues:

That’s what supposed to happen, I was in their shoes a few months ago trying to plead for title shots. I mean with Benson it got under my skin a little because I beat him twice. I don’t publicly announce that I’m annoyed, where I grew up if someone talks mess you handle it. I think once I have a couple defenses then I will get to feel that championship experience. I’ve got a couple years to stay here (as champion).”

It’s hard to argue against Henderson being ranked at number one right now, as he is the second best lightweight whether you like him or not, but it would also be hard to legitimize a third fight with ‘Showtime’ so soon after being wrecked by the new champion. The questions then turned to why the injuries have been occurring:

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I have no idea (why I got injured so many times). I’ve been fighting and training since I was 5. It wasn’t the camps I’ve had, the last injury was from when Benson hit me with a low kick. It was just the right amount of power and impact, the right angle. But I can’t change up how I’m preparing because I’m going out there and finishing guys in three minutes.”

Well the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we’ll know whether Pettis is at 100% when he fights ‘El Nino’. The former Strikeforce champion is a relentless bully in the cage, and any signs of weakness will only spur him on further. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Gil goes with a very leg kick-heavy approach to the Pettis fight, and that could prove costly for ‘Showtime’ if he has any nagging leg injuries.

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Was Pettis a victim of terrible luck, or does he actually have calcium-free bones that will eventually cost him his weight in UFC gold?

Photo: David Banks for USA Today Sports

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