After UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis made a successful return to the octagon with an impressive second round submission of Gilbert Melendez in the co-main event of Saturday’s (Dec. 6, 2014) UFC 181, the division’s focus will shift to just whom “Showtime” will face next.
The dynamic, dangerous titleholder has a lot of catching up to do after nearly 15 months off recovering from knee surgery. Ironically enough, it’s looking like Pettis will defend his belt against another elite talent nursing a knee injury, No. 2-ranked grappler Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“The Eagle” appeared at UFC 181, calling Pettis out at the post-fight presser. Afterwards he spoke up in an interview with MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani to state his opinion that the lightweight champion is scared to fight him:
“I think he (doesn’t want) this fight. He’s scared. Before he never said (anything) about me. But I am 6-0 (in the UFC) and the No. 1 contender (with a) 22-0 record. My opponent is scared. Showtime is scared.”
The undefeated Nurmagomedov has been increasingly louder about his desire to face Pettis recently, but there is one problem with that. He’s still recovering from knee surgery that he suffered literally moments after he signed on to fight Donald Cerrone at September’s UFC 178.
Nurmagomedov said he will get back to full training soon and has a tentative return date of sometime in April or May:
“Now I (began) my striking, running, lifting, everything. In January, I will begin wrestling and my doctor said that I could fight in April or May. Lets do it.”
But “The Eagle” said it could be June when he fights again at the presser, and even with all his nonstop callouts, Pettis hasn’t backed down.
“Showtime” questioned Nurmagomedov’s ability to speak English when he kept berating him after Pettis said yes to the fight.
Pettis is finally healthy, and noted that while Nurmagomedov will be ready in June, he’s ready right now. Should the skyrocketing superstar wait that long for Nurmagomedov to return?
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