Anthony Pettis has admitted that the risk of brain injury is a concern for him but that he is taking all possible measures to protect his health.
Former UFC lightweight champions Spencer Fisher revealed recently that he has been declared “permanently disabled and unable to work” following his 33-fight long career in mixed martial arts.
Pettis, who sparred with Fisher early on in his career, has concerns over his own well-being, but was confident that the measures fighters take today are far superior than the ones in place 20 years ago.
Who should I fight next?👀 pic.twitter.com/1PxCzRBvpy
— Anthony Pettis (@Showtimepettis) January 12, 2021
“I think early in the UFC and early in the MMA guys didn’t know how to train. It was all about sparring, it was all about – who’s the toughest guy in the room? No it has changed a little bit.
“I think now there are more athletes coming into mixed martial arts and we’re getting smarter in our approach to training. Especially me. I want to remember my kids’ names. I want to be able to be at their birthday parties and be present.
“I changed my approach in sparring. I don’t spar as much as I used to and I don’t take a lot of damage like I used to for no reason.
“I always tell my brother that too. We’re not getting paid in the gym. We’re getting ready for one of the events.
“I think that the older generation – and I know this – the older generation sparred more and had wars in the gym. It wasn’t like how it is now. These new athletes – they’re slowing it down a little and they’re not sparring as much.
“I just went out to Columbia [University] for stem cells research specifically for CTE and concussion and all that stuff.
“I don’t think I have it or anything like that but if it’s available to me I’m definitely going to take all the necessary steps to make sure that’s not a part of my life,” Pettis told Pundit Arena.
‘I wouldn’t wish concussion on anyone’
The former UFC lightweight champion has only gotten one concussion that he’s been aware of during his career, saying that the affect it had on him caused him to reevaluate how he protects himself from brain injury.
“It was before my last fight in January. Me and my little brother Sergio were sparring, and it was with 16 ounce gloves on. That’s what was weird – we had big boxing gloves on.
“I just walked into a right hand and I had never felt dazed like that before in my life. That’s when I got scared and that’s when I was like, ‘I need to make sure I’m doing the right things to not get concussions.’
“It’s a scary thing once you get it. I’ve seen other fighter’s get it before. Pascal Krauss, he’s a German fighter and he can’t fight any more because he has CTE. It just comes back to the times he trained.”
“So it’s a scary thing. We know the risk of the job but it’s our job to train smart and not put ourselves in that position.
“When I got my concussion – I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. You can’t control your emotions and you literally can’t run. If you run you feel like you’re dizzy and off. It was a scary time for me at the beginning of the year .
“It’s what made me go to Columbia and research stem cells and figure out ways to battle concussions. But I think that there are other fighters that their fighting style is ‘walk up and brawl’.
“They get hit a lot and they get hit a lot in sparring. The body’s not made to get hit. It’s a scary part of the job…some guys are just too tough for their own good,” Pettis commented.
Moving to the Professional Fighters League
The 33-year old fighter has recently signed for the Professional Fighters League (PFL), ending his nine-year long association with the UFC.
— PFL MMA (@ProFightLeague) December 23, 2020
While Pettis did have the option to stay with the UFC, he decided that the time was right for him to move on, and is relishing the chance to promote a new organisation.
“The PFL came to me with a deal that was amazing. It’s a great opportunity for me to be the face of a new company. It’s more of a partnership than me fighting for the company.
“Now I have to prove myself and do it again. I love putting myself in a position where my back’s against the cage and I have to fight my way out of it.
“All these guys on the roster are going to have an amazing opportunity to prove themselves against me. I know when I go in there that I’m going to have a target on my back.
“All these guys are going to want to fight me. I’m excited about this year,” Pettis said.
The Milwaukee fighter could make as many as four appearances in the octagon this year and has the opportunity to get his hands on the lightweight belt before the year ends thanks to the knockout style competition in the PFL.
Pettis will be the favourite in the PFL lightweight championship, but reigning champion Natan Schulte may well prove to be a major obstacle for the former UFC champion.