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By Rich Hansen, MMATorch Columnist
On April 30, our Rich Hansen had the chance to speak with Sergio Pettis. Pettis, 18, is 3-0 as a professional mixed martial artist, and will be making his flyweight debut on Friday May 4 at NAFC: Colosseum in Pettis' hometown of Milwaukee, WI. While Pettis is currently most well known for being the younger brother of UFC lightweight star Anthony Pettis, Sergio revels in the role of younger brother to a superstar.
Pettis spoke to MMATorch about his relationship with his older brother, how Duke Roufus' career arc parallels his own, his teammates at Roufusport, and much more. What follows is an edited transcript of Pettis' conversation with MMA Torch.
MMATorch: Tell me a little bit about Chris Haney, your opponent this Friday night. What do you know about him, what type of fighter is he, and what do you have to look out for against him?
Sergio Pettis: From what I know he's a little bit taller than me, maybe three inches. He's gonna be a little bit longer. From what I saw on video his striking is pretty decent, but his ground game is where I think he has a strong side, so I'm going to have to avoid the takedown and keep it standing. And if I do get taken down, make sure I stay tight and there are no holes in my jiu-jitsu game. So stay tight and try to finish him standing.
MMATorch: Have you tailored this training camp specifically for Haney, or has this been a normal camp to work on fundamentals?
Sergio Pettis: This camp I really focused on working on everything to get better as a mixed martial artist. It wasn't directly towards Haney. My jiu-jitsu I've worked really well. Hopefully the fight will go by fast. I did what I had to do this camp.
MMATorch: This is your fourth professional fight, and is your first at 125 pounds. Of course, the UFC recently opened a 125 pound division. Would you have made the drop to 125 if the UFC didn't open a flyweight division, and does your dropping to 125 indicate that you think you're close to a UFC contract if you win on Friday night?
Sergio Pettis: The reason why I dropped was because of the new division obviously. I mean, if I win there might be a chance at the UFC, but I'm not trying to rush it. I'm only eighteen years old and I've got a long time ahead of me. By the time I get to the UFC I want to be that prospect like a Jon Jones or one of those guys where everybody is like, “Wow, that guy is amazing!” There's no rush. If I do win and I get a UFC shot, that would be awesome. But if I don't it's the same; just getting better and better every day.
MMATorch: How many fights do you think it'll take you to get that UFC offer?
Sergio Pettis: Maybe four, four or five, around that range.
MMATorch: Your coach Duke Roufus grew up as the younger brother of a world class kickboxer in Rick Roufus, which obviously parallels you being the younger brother to Anthony Pettis. Does Duke ever talk to you about what he went through when he was coming up as Rick's younger brother to help you avoid some of the pratfalls he encountered?
Sergio Pettis: Yeah, for sure. Duke is a great coach man. He'll helps me out in fighting and that part of the fight game as well. He's been through the same thing as me, so he knows that there is a lot of pressure on us. I'm the younger brother of a star, so obviously [people] are going to imagine I'm as good as [Anthony] or on his level. It's hard because I'm young, so the guys who fight me feel 'If I beat [Anthony's] younger brother, it's just like beating Anthony' you know There's a lot more pressure, but Duke helps me handle it, and I'm pretty mature I believe for my age, so I can handle it pretty well.
MMATorch: So you know you're getting everybody's A-game every time you step in the cage. You're not ever going to get somebody slacking off a little bit, not just because of your own hype but because of whose brother you are.
Sergio Pettis: I really believe that. They're all going to come in there and try to beat me. Beating a Pettis, man, that's pretty good.
MMATorch: When you and your brother are sparring, do you guys go at each other a little harder than you do everybody else?
Sergio Pettis: For sure. We're so comfortable with each other that we don't feel bad if we hurt each other. There has been a couple times where we did hurt each other. Obviously he beats me up a lot more than I beat him up, but you know, we really go at it. We go at it as hard as we can and I get more tired with him than I do with anybody else. And he says the same about me.
MMATorch: But you've gotten your fair share of big licks on him though?
Sergio Pettis: Oh yeah, yeah man. There's times where he's having bad days and I'll take advantage and the same thing for him. When we're both on our A-game it's fun to watch us spar you know? We throw some cool kicks man. We hit each other hard, then we smile about it. It's all fun.
MMATorch: Do you ever get tired of talking about Anthony when you are a big talent in your own right? Or is all just a positive at this point [in your career]?
Sergio Pettis: It's all positive man, I love talking about my brother. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be where I am right now. He's my best friend. He's a great training partner. We've got a relationship that I don't think anybody could break, so I love talking about my brother.
MMATorch: Speaking about training partners, you wrestler for two years in high school [at Milwaukee Pius], and now you have one of the all time best wrestlers in Ben Askren working with you every day. What has he added to your ground game?
Sergio Pettis: Oh man. He has helped me out a lot. I don't think Haney can take me down because of the work Askren has put in with us. And now I feel comfortable wrestling. I just feel like Ben brought my game up ten more levels than what it was when I wrestled at Pius, thanks to Ben.
MMATorch: But has he helped your disc golf game at all?
Sergio Pettis: (laughing) Nah nah. I haven't played him yet. He invited me a couple times, but I didn't wind up making it out with him.
MMATorch: A couple weeks ago I interviewed Pascal Krauss who has been training with you guys for his fight in New Jersey (on May 5, against John Hathaway). What do you see in Pascal, and what has he helped you with most?
Sergio Pettis: Oh Pascal, he's a tough guy, man. He's really tough. He's looking a lot better. You know, he came down here and his striking was pretty good but I believe Duke helped him out. A lot of little tips and pointers that helped him out. Pascal man, he's a great guy. He comes to the gym smiling and has a good time with us. When he has a bad day he looks past it. Pascal is awesome, I liked having him and I hope he comes back.
MMATorch: Every time I'm at Roufusport I can't help but notice just how positive everyone is there. Does all of that positivity turn into confidence when you're fighting?
Sergio Pettis: It's awesome having Duke. He's just so positive. Everybody at the gym, we're all friends man. You know, even if we're the same weight class, we're all friends. Duke being so positive helps us all like each other more. It makes all of us train better and make each other better. So I think that turns into confidence because getting complimented by Duke is amazing. He's a great kickboxer and a champion a couple times. So yeah that positivity is contagious.
MMATorch: Has the amount of hype and attention you've gotten at just eighteen years old blow your mind a little? Is it hard to stay grounded?
Sergio Pettis: No, not really man. I do a lot of interviews and a lot of people recognize me, but I know what I have to do and I don't feel like I am big time yet. I feel like I'm still just a little kid making my way up. So I don't feel any overconfidence or cocky from the hype. I feel there's more pressure on me than on other fighters. But I mean, other than that, I feel like I'm a normal fighter who is trying to make his way to the top.
MMATorch: Do you know when Anthony is going to be ready to come back?
Sergio Pettis: I know he'll be training, shadow boxing not sparring, start shadow boxing in June. Then he can start training pads around the end of June or July. Hopefully he can get back in, if therapy goes right, and maybe he can get a fight in by October or November. I'm not sure exactly, though. He's still recovering.
MMATorch: Erik Koch is going to be fighting Jose Aldo [for the UFC Featherweight Title]. What type of jolt has that given to the entire team now that your team is getting its first ever UFC title shot?
Sergio Pettis: The training has been a lot more intense. Duke's been on Erik pretty well. Erik has gotten twenty times better just in preparing for this fight. All the training is more intense, and all his teammates are happy he's gotten a title shot, so we're all going to stick around to help him, even after our fights we're sticking around to help him get ready for Aldo. It's a tough fight, man. Aldo is a beast.
MMATorch: Last time I was up there, I watched Pascal Krauss and Koch go at it for seven rounds on the mat, and I came away impressed with Koch's ground game. He really hung in with Krauss who is a good all around fighter. Koch didn't let Krauss get an advantage for more than a few seconds before he got out of trouble.
Sergio Pettis: A lot of people don't know about Koch's ground game. He's got a real good ground game. He's the only guy at the gym who I roll with who confuses me because he comes with something different. He's really strong; he holds great posture and positioning. He's got a great ground game.
MMATorch: Now that you're a flyweight, I want to have you break down the fight between Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson. How does that fight play out, and who do you think will win?
Sergio Pettis: I think Ian McCall is going to win, man. In his last fight he looked amazing. It's the first time I've seen Mighty Mouse (Johnson) tired. And McCall kept coming forward. McCall took Mighty Mouse down a lot and he was striking with him. I think Ian's going to win this fight.
Sergio would like to thank sponsors US Metal Finishing, Team Hoffman Remax, Carmen Construction, Showtime Sports Bar, and all of the people at Duke's.
NAFC: Colosseum takes place on Friday March 4 at the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee, WI. For more information, please visit The NAFC's website.
Follow Sergio Pettis on Twitter @SergioPettis
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