Anthony Pettis dethroned Benson Henderson twice in MMA, taking the WEC lightweight belt from “Smooth” in 2010 and then submitting him three years later to capture UFC gold, and he feels that the Karate Combat rule set is better suited for his style.
The Pettis vs. Henderson trilogy match headlines Karate Combat 43 this Friday in Las Vegas, and Pettis told MMA Fighting that not worrying about takedowns is one of the aspects that will allow him to unleash his entire striking arsenal in the Karate Combat pit.
“I think I have an advantage on the striking area,” Pettis said. “When we fought, he put me against the cage a lot, he tried to take me down a lot, so you take away those threats, now I have a wide open game. I can throw my spinning kicks, my jump kicks, everything that I’ve been doing growing up, and I don’t have to worry about getting taken down.
“When you fight MMA, you’ve got to simplify your game just because of the rule set. Someone takes you down, you lose a round. Someone puts you against a cage, you lose a round on control. Where, in this, he doesn’t have that opportunity. He literally has to stand there in front of me and fight. Ben is a solid guy, no disrespect against Ben. I think he’s a great competitor, has great striking, but I just feel like I have the upper hand in this style.”
“The biggest thing is my background,” Pettis continued. “I come from a point sparring background, traditional martial arts is where I started my career at. I started when I was five years old, point sparring, so I already had the understanding of the rule set. And then when you put in full-contact karate, I mean, it’s exactly like MMA but there’s a couple things that changed — obviously the pit, the low kick, no ground and pound, no takedowns. I think the rule set is perfectly made for my style.”
Pettis won a decision over Henderson in their iconic first match, the last ever in WEC history, and locked up an armbar from guard to tap Henderson in their UFC rematch. And Pettis elaborated on why he thinks he has the advantage ahead of his Karate Combat debut.
“If you look at our first couple fights, I wanted to keep it standing,” Pettis said. “I didn’t initiate the takedowns. It was always him initiating the takedowns, pushing me on the fence, but, you take that threat out of there, that’s what I’m excited about. He’s still a talented striker, talented fighter, but, like you said, I’ve been doing this my whole life and I’m still continuing to focus on the striking portion of this.”
Pettis is still under contract with the PFL and aiming to lock down a deal for a massive MMA bout in 2024. Plus, he’s hoping to have at least three boxing matches in the calendar year — and is open to discussions for a potential BKFC clash with Mike Perry.
But Karate Combat approached him with the offer right when he was preparing for his next boxing match, Pettis explained, and that ultimately lined up with his beliefs that martial arts need a stronger market aside from MMA.
“Back in Wisconsin, I got three gyms that teach traditional martial arts, we teach point sparring, we teach the respect and discipline,” Pettis said, “and there’s really no place for my guys to actually compete at the highest level. We would have to switch them to MMA. I would lose my guys at like 15, 16 years old — not lose them, but they would transition into grappling, MMA, because the competition was there.
“But now with this here, man, I feel like now I have a chance to continue on. Somebody that comes from the traditional martial art background, they don’t have to switch to MMA. Now they have opportunity to go here, and the money is there. The money is there, so it makes total sense.”
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