Late in the evening on October 26, an unidentified suspect or suspects used an accelerant to burn vehicles in the driveway of former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis’s home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A third vehicle caught fire as well, and a fourth was heavily smoke damaged.
The two destroyed vehicles were a Range Rover that Pettis had picked up earlier in the day, and a Range Rover and Jaguar owned by Pettis’s younger brother, UFC featherweight Sergio Pettis. The smoke-damaged auto was a Porsche owned by the elder Pettis.
The fire did not spread to the home, and no one was physically harmed. The Milwaukee PD is investigating, but no suspects have been named.
The fighter had just returned from two weeks training in Thailand, in preparation for a fight with #1 featherweight contender Max Holloway at UFC 206 on December 10 in Toronto, Ontario.
Pettis is no stranger to violence. He is a world-class fighter, grew up in a tough neighborhood in Milwaukee, and lost his father to a stabbing during a robbery that remains unsolved 13 years later. However, Pettis is the quintessential example of someone whose life was saved by martial arts. In addition to his own fight career, he is a part owner in Roufusport, owns a sports bar and a barbershop. Pettis and his brother were deeply shaken and released statements the next day.
Now, in the hopes that further publicity will generate information leading to the identification of the arsonist or arsonists, Pettis has done his first interview with a news source since the incident.
“Luckily, my daughter wasn’t with m. It was me and Serge and my nutritionist from [New] Jersey. It was his first day in town. Welcome to Milwaukee.”
“I feel like I’ve gone through the phases of trying to figure out who did it and why. Now I’ve got to move on with my life. It’s just a crazy time for it all to happen – five, six weeks out from the biggest fight in my life.”
Pettis is baffled at who could have done it, or why. He thinks it highly unlikely that it could have anything to do with his father. Eugene Pettis Jr, although he had moved in and out of the drug world, had at the time of his stabbing stabilized his life with a janitorial job at a Christian center for troubled teens.
“I was 16 when my dad passed away,” said Pettis. “I thought I got out of that life. For somebody to wait 13 years, they have the most patience in the world. I’m a pretty peaceful dude. When I’m in Milwaukee, I’m here to train and run my businesses.”
“That’s the crazy thing – I can’t think of one person who would want to do this. If I sit here and try to figure out who and why it will drive me crazy. Do I let this consume me, or do I keep pushing forward and continue to train and live my life?”
Water from the firefighters destroyed any evidence that might have been present, and Pettis has since installed cameras.
“I definitely should have been more prepared,” he said. “But at the same time, I never thought anything like this would happen to me. One event like this won’t make me leave. I grew up in this city. It could have happened anywhere.
“Hopefully, they catch who did it and justice will be served.”
Anyone with information about the incident should contact the Milwaukee police at 414.935.7360.