Anthony Pettis has seen it all and has accomplished a lot in his world championship MMA career.
Even with having won titles in multiple organizations, the opportunity to take on new talent in the Professional Fighters League along with having a set schedule was something he couldn’t pass up.
The heralded lightweight will be making his PFL debut on April 23 in Atlantic City against Clay Collard. While adding to an already impressive career is of the utmost importance to him, with this new journey and new format, he also wants to take more in and enjoy himself more.
“I’ve been around for such a long time in this sport and I’m kind of a pioneer, which is crazy, because I’m only 34 years old,” Pettis said. “I’m looking to come in here and stay present and enjoy the moments because that’s what it’s all about. I want to go in there and enjoy the moment, don’t fight for the next fight, just keep that moment of the next 15 minutes in the octagon in mind. I’m going to go clock in, be present, have as much fun as possible and continue building my legacy.”
We caught up with Pettis ahead to discuss the mental and physical benefit of knowing his fight schedule and what a typical camp and preparation for a fight looks like for him.
You talked a lot about the stability of knowing when you’re going to fight and knowing your schedule as a big enticement for joining the PFL. How much of a benefit is that in knowing your schedule well in advance?
My whole fighting career has been the same when you have these huge fights pop up and it might be a three-week notice. I’ve taken fights on 20-days, even 17-day notice. In this format, the whole schedule is already laid out. I have enough time to heal my body, rehydrate, and feel good about going back into a training camp. It just gives me more structure in my life, knowing when I’m going to fight, when I need to cut weight, knowing when I have to get in tune for fights. I’m already out here in Atlantic City in quarantine, so I’m ready to go.
Can you explain the strain and stress both mentally and physically having to jump into a quick camp because a fight has been scheduled on short notice?
It’s a mental thing. I’ve been doing this my whole life, so I feel like as skillsets go, my skillset is always there, but getting your mindset right and getting your body to match your mindset, whether it’s cutting weight, or cardio and conditioning — there’s a lot of mental aspects that go into it. Having a 20-day notice can play some tricks on your mind when getting ready for a fight as opposed to two to three months to prepare for a fight.
What’s a typical camp looks like for you?
My camps are usually 10 to 12 weeks. Monday through Friday is the bulk of our workdays. Mondays, we get up and do our conditioning in the morning. Strength and conditioning are definitely part of the schedule. On Tuesday, we go to martial arts specific-style training. On Monday, it’s a sparring day. Tuesday, it’s jiujitsu. Wednesday is like a wrestling/sparring day. Thursday, that’s another wrestling/ground game day. Then we go home, recover, rehydrate, rest and we go back at night and do a pad session with my coach that includes striking, boxing, kickboxing, taekwondo, or whatever the focus is on that day depending on who I’m fighting. We usually finish up with a sauna or a hot tub session and some cardio.
Can you describe some of your process for making weight and what you’ve found that works for you?
I walk around at about 185 pounds and I fight at 155, so I’m cutting 30 pounds in a two-to-three-month period. My biggest thing is the diet. I bring in a nutritionist. His name is Eric Pena and he lives in Miami, but comes out and makes all my meals for me. The objective is to lower my weight, but also keep my energy and focus high. That’s the hard part; to not starving yourself in which you’re defeated while trying to fight, and still eating enough to where you’re energized, and you can get through your workouts while you’re losing weight.
You have to know your body, what foods you can eat, what you can drink, what your training schedule is, and a lot of science goes into that. The last week before the fight, we do a water load. We do like three gallons of water on Monday, one gallon on Tuesday, half a gallon on Wednesday, no water on Thursday and we weigh in on Friday. We also eliminate sodium, so your body is just filled with water. We do a water cut for the last 10 to 12 pounds and that’s the process. I’ve been doing it a long time.
Do you alter any parts of your camp depending on the opponent or do you mainly focus on improving on your strengths?
I think styles make fights, especially in mixed martial arts. You have guys who are wrestling heavy, guys who are kickboxers, boxers, jiujitsu — so you have to figure out who you’re fighting and what their skillset is. I think earlier in my career, I used to focus on that a lot in game-planning for my opponent. Now, at this level of my career, I know what [my opponents are] good at and I always just focus on my strengths more than my weaknesses in my camp to build my confidence and mindset up. We do focus on the weaknesses but I’m not putting that in the front, like, “I got to be good at this because he’s good at this.” It’s about this is what I’m good at and I’m going to sharpen it up to get better at it and he has to stop it.
When you’re not in camp, what is a guilty pleasure of yours?
When I’m out of camp, my biggest guilty pleasure is probably carbs. When I’m in camp, I really have to pay attention to my carb intake just because it holds water, and your carb intake definitely affects how much you weigh. When I’m out of camp, I indulge in pizza, tacos, burgers, bread and all the stuff I can’t eat while I’m training.
This time around, I feel I did it smart. I hired a nutritionist and brought him in to live with me for the last six weeks. I feel like the way I’m eating is normal and I don’t feel like I’m dieting to cut weight for a fight. I feel like I’m just leading a healthy lifestyle.
With this current schedule, there’s really not a lot of off time as I believe you have to be ready again in a couple of months. How do you feel that works out for your body?
This is my first time doing it, so I’m trying to be really smart about my approach. This first fight, I’m not taking it as an all-or-nothing fight. I’m doing great training and my body is healthy. I’m being smart, listening to my body, and taking my time in the process. Let’s say, for example, if we’re fighting in the UFC, Bellator, or OneFC — guys who are going for title shots, they have one fight and one chance to make their claim for it and then they probably won’t fight for another three to four months depending on their performance.
This time around, I’m fighting every two months to six months, so it’s interesting and I haven’t had my first fight yet, so I don’t how it feels to have a quick turnaround like that to get right back in training camp for a fight. But the way I trained for this fight, I feel like I can do that, along with managing the little injuries, bumps and bruises. I’ve been very smart in my approach and my attack on this guy. I want to get in, get out, because we don’t get paid for overtime in mixed martial arts. I’m going to try and get out without getting hurt.