I think the fans want to see that fight eventually. I think he’s earned his right to be where he’s at to pick and chose who he fights. If he does come back, I know that’s a fight the fans want to see.SN: Is the goal at welterweight fighting for the title or is it about having fun fights and taking on the best guys to do that with at this stage?AP: The goal is always definitely the title. But there is a line. Right now, I’m not in a position to be sitting out and waiting for anything. I’m going to keep pleading my case and whatever happens, is going to happen. Then the wheels came off the tracks in a hurry. Pettis lost the belt to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 185 and subsequent fights to Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza. Feeling a change was needed, Pettis made an ill-fated drop to featherweight where he submitted Charles Oliveira, but missed weight by three pounds for an interim title bout with current 145-pound kingpin Max Holloway.Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearDesperate for answers, the Milwaukee native moved back to 155 pounds, where he went 2-2 with his losses coming to current interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier and former interim titleholder Tony Ferguson.Knowing his back was against the wall and getting an opportunity to regain his belt was a pipe dream due to the logjam in the division, Pettis moved up to welterweight. So far, so good, as Pettis looked like “Showtime” when he scored a highlight-reel knockout over former title challenger Stephen Thompson back in March.With his career back on track and at a weight class that he’s comfortable at, Pettis is back in a prime-time position — the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC 241 against Nate Diaz. Speaking with Sporting News before the fight that many MMA pundits feel is the “people’s main event,” Pettis discusses the hype surrounding his fight, finding solitude in fishing during this training camp and a possible match with Conor McGregor down the line.(Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.)Sporting News: On the second episode of UFC Embedded, it showed you fly fishing. What led you to get into fishing?Anthony Pettis: Fishing is a mind-clearing thing for me. Fighting is so chaotic and so personable, and you got to deal with a lot of the mental, and that takes a toll on you. The first time I went fishing, I viewed it as a new challenge. It really cleared my mind. Learning to understand what kind of pole to use for fish, what type of bait I have to use, what depth of water is. It’s so intriguing.SN: When did you get into fishing and what made you want to get into it?AP: I used to fish as a kid. I used to do it often. When I came back into it, I got exposed to what fishing really was. I was on vacation in the Caicos Islands and I went fishing with my daughter and my fiancée’s son. They both got sick as hell, and I’m out there fishing, having the best time of my life. Then once we got back, I was like, ‘I have to do this on my own’. That made me realize fishing is another passion of mine. I love it like crazy now.SN: Is fishing your biggest release from fighting?AP: Right now it is. With this camp, I’ve done a lot of fishing. It’s the summertime in Wisconsin, so that helps because it’s more enjoyable in the summer. I own several other businesses and I think I used to go right from training camp right to the business back to training camp and back to the business world. Fishing gives me that break in between that. It’s a good head cleaning and gives me space.SN: With the magnitude of this fight and what you just said about getting back into fishing, do you see it being a passion for you going forward?AP: Absolutely. I’m not sure how long I’m going to be doing it for. I wouldn’t say I’m good at fishing yet, but I’m learning. I went boat fishing the other night, and I had a fantastic time.I went on Lake Michigan and lay out on the lake and try and get salmon and trout. I’m going to do that in September when I get back from this fight.SN: Looking at your debut at welterweight and it couldn’t have gone better, knocking out a former title challenger in “Wonderboy” Thompson. When going back and re-watching the fight, does it make you think you should have made a move to 170 after the struggles you had gone through at featherweight and lightweight?AP: Not at all. I think I had to go to featherweight to get to this spot. I always wanted to try featherweight and I always want to fight the best in the world. So I went down a weight class and fought Max Holloway, who is the king of the featherweights, and it didn’t go my way. But I do know how it feels to go down to 146 pounds. I know in my head I have the control to get down to 146 pounds, which is crazy. I don’t know how I did that.Moving up later in my career obviously makes the most sense. I’m getting stronger. I hit “Wonderboy” with a right hand, and my hand didn’t break. That tells me something. When I’m cutting that weight, no matter what you are more fragile. I don’t care who you are. You cut all that water weight, and you get all the nutrients out of you. Your bones hurt a little more. This was the right decision in moving up to welterweight.SN: A lot of hype has been centered this fight with Nate. In a lot of circles, it has been talked about more than the main event with Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic. Why do you think that is?AP: I’m not going to take anything away from the main event. Stipe is one of the best in the world, and DC is one of the greatest ever to do it right now. But the fans know what Nate Diaz and I can do in the octagon. There will be blood, there will be guts, and there will be entertaining stuff thrown. There will be memes and posters of this fight for a long time to come. We will go out and bang. Even though me and Nate have our differences, I do respect the fact he’s a fighter. I respect the fact he comes out there and fights. And that’s why I said yes to this fight.SN: Nate did a video interview with ESPN. He was very respectful to you, and right now, you were just very respectful to him. But there have been differences in the past between you guys. Where does all of that come from?AP: I was excited too to find out where he had a problem with me. After watching the UFC Countdown show, it sounded like he was jealous. I thought he had some real issues. I knew he was trying to be the champion and I had knocked off his teammate Gilbert Melendez. He was in Gilbert’s corner for the fight. I think that’s where it all started.Nate started popping off at the mouth. At the time, he didn’t have the status that he does now. He was the Nate Diaz he is now. He stops Conor McGregor and he exploded. Before then, my stock was higher than his stock. That’s what it was about.SN: Your coach Duke Roufus brought up in a recent interview about you possibly fighting Conor McGregor. If you get the win over Diaz, what would you make of a matchup with McGregor?AP: I love that fight. I think Conor is a great martial artist. He’s done a lot for the sport. He brings a fun style to the cage. I think our styles fit each other perfectly. Entering 2015, Anthony Pettis was on top of the MMA world. He was the reigning UFC lightweight champion, appeared on a Wheaties box and had just tapped out Gilbert Melendez for his first successful title defense at UFC 181.
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