Roufusport founder Duke Roufus appeared recently on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, and had a startling revelation about former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis’s last fight.
Pettis came out of the WEC as champion, having defeated Benson Henderson with what is widely believed to be the greatest kick in MMA history. Then he lost his first UFC fight, to Clay Guida. Then he edged out Jeremy Stephens via split decision. That was in 2011.
In 2012, Anthony Pettis began a tear. He knocked out Joe Lauzon on the first, in the KO of the night. Then he knocked out Cowboy Cerrone in the first, in the KO of the night. Then he tapped out Benson Henderson in the first, in the sub of the night, winning the lightweight championship.
And then he defended his title by tapping Gilbert Melendez for the first time. He was larger than life, on the cover of Wheaties.
Then Pettis lost a decision to Rafael dos Anjos, and his title. Then he lost a split decision to Eddie Alvarez. Then he lost a decision to Edson Barboza. His old title appeared to be out of reach, and he was not young at 29.
So Pettis, never a large lightweight, dropped to featherweight. He looked cadaverous at the weigh-ins, but tapped out Charles Oliveira in the third. There was more at stake in the fight than he knew.
“I’ve only told a couple of people this — Anthony, one of my really good friends in Canada, and one of my business partners,” began Roufus, as transcribed by Chuck Mindenhall for MMA Fighting.
“If Anthony Pettis would have lost his last fight, I was going to stop coaching,” he told Ariel Helwani. “He had his back against the wall, I had my back against the wall. And, I’m serious. That’s how much this kid’s life means to me.
“But that’s how invested I am as a coach. And that’s the mentality I have going into this Punk fight.”
“I take responsibility for winning and losing when coaching. I’m the type of guy who wants to be in the trenches with my people. I felt like we had one of the best camps in a long time, that connectivity, I was inspired by Anthony’s hunger as well, too. It was a very crucial part of his career. It was. No one took the losses worse than me, and of course Anthony. I know his potential is, and I know what he’s capable of.
“He’s a special force, and I just want to see him shine. And he did. I feel like the next stage of his career is going to be a special one. He’s got a special, special motivation right now.”
However, Pettis did not know that his coach’s career was on the line.
“No, no, I didn’t want to cloud his vision,” said Roufus. “I didn’t want to cloud his thoughts and mind. I didn’t want my hang up to be his hang up, if that makes sense. It’s just where I was at as a coach, and professionally. I don’t know, maybe it was a psychological trick to just make me extra hungry in his camp.
“I don’t know if it was reality or not, but that was the mindset I had coming in. And sometimes that’s what it takes to win a fight, getting your mind right. You don’t have to be a god all year, you’ve only got to be a god on fight night. So, the mind is an incredible thing. It can either play tricks on you, or you can play tricks on your mind to make it do things special for you.”