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Title drama sends Pettis on fast-track to UFC gold

Anthony Pettis poses on the scale during a weigh-in for UFC 197,Friday, April 22, 2016, in Las Vegas. Pettis is scheduled to fight Edson Barboza Saturday in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)

When all is said and done, Anthony Pettis may end up being the biggest beneficiary of Conor McGregor’s pursuit for UFC history. All he had to do was sit tight and wait for his turn.

Fresh off an impressive third-round submission victory over grappling specialist Charles Oliveira in August, Pettis now finds himself competing opposite a fighter currently in the midst of the longest active winning streak at 145 pounds: Max Holloway.

This all comes in the aftermath of McGregor’s headlining slot at UFC 205 in New York City. Hoping to defeat UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, the Irishman looks to be the first fighter in Octagon history to hold two titles at the same time.

Only McGregor’s lofty goals would not come without some dire consequences.

Most notably was Jose Aldo, and his disappointment in not being granted — as originally promised — a rematch with Dublin’s golden fighter. Having defeated former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar to secure the interim crown at 145 this July, Aldo had done all he, or any other fighter, needed to do to either lock horns with McGregor or become the undisputed champion. Only, the UFC didn’t stick to its word in forcing McGregor to vacate the UFC featherweight title as he set sail for lightweight.

This left Aldo without his desired rematch or undisputed crown, and left the featherweight division without its storied Brazilian fighter. While Aldo has since backed off of his claims to have no interest in fighting in the UFC any longer, it’s clear he won’t have any part in fighting anybody but McGregor anytime soon.

That’s unfortunate for Holloway, who’s clearly done enough to, at the very least, warrant a shot at the interim title against Aldo.

That’s incredibly fortunate for Pettis, however, who is just one bout removed from a three-fight losing streak and quite possibly one win away from cashing in big at 145 pounds. Where Pettis found himself on the wrong end of three straight decisions against Rafael dos Anjos, Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza, the talented, flashy striker now finds himself on the doorstep of a potential shot against Aldo or McGregor in the near future with a win in Toronto.

It’s also a big win for the UFC. Considering Holloway was never considered for a title shot at any point during his nine-fight winning streak, it’s clear the division needed something more from a contender for its Irish champion. Pettis, a former king at 155 pounds and easily one of the more popular and fan-friendly fighters on the roster, fits that bill perfectly. Whether he’s tasked with fighting McGregor or Aldo down the line for UFC gold, adding Pettis’ name to the blue corner will be far more marketable fight than the current alternative.

But this isn’t just a hypothetical title shot we’re talking about for Pettis; this is a potential, genuine opportunity at becoming a two-division champion in the UFC — just the third fighter in company history to do so. He won’t have to use his size to deal with the grappling of either of the two champions at 145 pounds either; he’ll use his gifted skill-set as a striker to impose his will against two smaller fighters.

Despite his struggles against the champion, No. 2- and No. 5-ranked fighters at 155 pounds, it’s clear timing and a deep breath have made for a world of change for Pettis as the calendar year comes to a close. And what a turbulent year its been for “Showtime.”

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