Clay Collard will face Anthony Pettis this Friday for the 2021 PFL kick-off tournament, but this isn’t the first time he’s been in the same room as the former UFC lightweight champion.
UFC 181, Dec 6, 2014, will be remembered for a number of reasons. Robbie Lawler won a split decision over Johnny Hendrix for the ultimate welterweight title, Pettis authored what turned out to be the only defense of his lightweight title when he introduced Gilbert Melendez, and for Collard it was the night he received your title. the first (and so far the only) victory in the UFC.
At the time, Collard and Pettis couldn’t be further apart in terms of prestige. Pettis was positioned as the next great 155lb champion, receiving a massive publicity boost from the UFC that saw him become the first MMA fighter ever to appear on the front of a Whitis box.
Collard, who was only 21 at the time, was the first fight in the early preliminary competition.
He recalls crossing paths with Pettis a couple of days before the night of the fight. And he didn’t like the vibe he got from the champion.
“I remember all of us sitting on the bench, chatting the night before the weigh-in, chatting with our teams, and he stood in the corner with his arms folded like he was a superstar,” Collard told MMA Fighting.
It was a fleeting meeting, hardly a blood feud, but would Collard go so far as to say that there is genuine animosity?
“I didn’t like it,” Collard continued. “I’m from a small town, I’m that guy from a small town who … He just seemed so outstanding to me, and that’s just not my attitude.
“I feel that you can afford [the fame] get to you and allow yourself to explode, or you can remain the same grounded person, and that’s exactly what I see. I’ll try to stay this down to earth person, this small town guy. “
Friday marks Collard’s return to MMA bouting after a two-year hiatus, but don’t assume he was unoccupied. Meanwhile, Collard plunged into the world of professional boxing, where he won amusing victories over promising Raymond Guajardo and his MMA teammate Loraunt-T Nelson. The 28-year-old has focused on boxing primarily for financial reasons, and it worked as big promotions like Top Rank signed him up to compete on their cards.
Although he took a hiatus from mixed martial arts competition due to a winning streak of two fights, most fans will probably still recognize him from his 1-3 performance in the UFC, including soon. debut against future featherweight champion Max Holloway (Holloway defeated. Collard by TKO in the third round).
Pettis has fought numerous high-profile fights even after his reign as lightweight ended, so there is a reputation gap that needs to be closed ahead of Friday’s fight. Not that Collard cared.
“100 percent,” Collard said when asked if he could ignore the expectations of his match with Pettis. “I will lose every time because I like to prove that people are wrong. Do I feel like a failure? No, absolutely not. It would be great to derail the champion, derail the great superstar Anthony Pettis right away. ”
“Maybe we’ll meet twice, who knows,” added Collard, considering knocking Pettis out of the PFL playoffs.
It’s been a long time since he last donned four ounce gloves, but Collard is keen to return to cage fighting. As a lifelong boxer and wrestler, Collard never stopped mixing techniques and supporting versatile training, even when he wasn’t competing in MMA.
If anything has changed, it is his mentality. He was 21 when he made his UFC debut and 26 when he last fought in MMA. When he meets Pettis on Friday, he expects to show a different person from the kid who touched Showtime years ago.
“It’s day and night,” Collard said. “My maturity is probably the most important thing. Now I am a grown man. It will be day and night, I’m not even close to the same fighter, to the same person that I was even a year or two years ago, so I’m just ready to do it. “
What if he plays at the table and gets a $ 1 million PFL prize?
“I’m finally getting the backyard my dog deserves,” Collard said. “He’s tired of living in my little apartment, buddy.”