Clay Collard may have been considered underdog when he stepped into his PFL debut against Anthony Pettis, but he certainly didn’t buy into that narrative.
Despite being away from the sport for a long time when he passed to focus on his boxing career, the former UFC contender was confident he was back in 2019 as a much better fighter than the person who fought last.
The results were evidenced by Collard’s performance as he knocked down Pettis multiple times during the fight and also showed his own toughness when the former UFC champion had to survive a late comeback attempt.
The win was considered sad by many, but don’t count Collard among them.
“I’m sure I’ve mentioned this a thousand times before, my time in boxing has only made me a better fighter,” Collard told MMA Fighting. “It’s been a long few years in mixed martial arts but it’s good to be back. It’s good to come back with a win. I’m just so excited and ready to keep practicing.
“I believe I am one of the deadliest guys around, especially at 155 pounds. So I’m going to go in with anyone at 155 pounds and throw them down. I believe I can do this. I believe I have proven that I can do it with the best men in the world.”
The global pandemic prevented Collard from getting back into action last year but he also took advantage of his trail as it gave him a chance to sharpen his skills even more before he made his debut in the PFL cage.
Technically out of a two-year layoff from MMA, Collard didn’t want an easy opponent for his first fight, so he specifically wanted Pettis or two-time PFL champion Natan Schulte just outside the door.
Obviously Collard got his wish and made the most of it.
“I’m a murderer. I believe that,” Collard said. Like I said, I wanted [Pettis] or champion [Natan Schulte] I wanted to prove that I belong there first and foremost. I’m coming to win. My desk.
“I am 28 years old, in my prime. I work hard. I have a good team and a good coach and I’m ready to let the world know what’s going on. I’m here to dig. That was everything I wanted from that fight. To show up and prove that I am a force to be reckoned with.”
On Thursday night, Collard will make his second appearance in the PFL with a scheduled fight against Joilton Lutterbach, leading him to the playoffs later this year.
Pettis is competing on the same card in a fight against Alexander Martinez and is obviously hoping for a win to secure his place in the playoffs as well.
If both fighters make it to the last four, there’s a good chance Collard will meet Pettis again before the year is out, and he’ll welcome that rematch if it does.
“Everything like how the points system was scored and that could have been very good,” Collard said. “He can go out there and kick someone in the head and be ahead of the game. That’s one of the biggest pieces of this whole tournament.
“If we meet again, I’ll be ready to bring him in. If we don’t, I’ll be ready to bring him in and beat someone else. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is.”
As Pettis signed a very high-profile contract for the PFL, Collard received a lot of attention for the win against him, but he knows it’s only one piece of the puzzle to win the PFL lightweight title and take home $1 million. Reward at the end of the season.
Collard could even be considered a favorite to win the championship, which means he’ll have a pretty big goal going forward.
This may seem like a daunting position to some, but Collard invites everyone and everyone in the PFL lightweight division to aim for him and take their best shot.
“Before the tournament started, I believed I was a finalist,” Collard said. “I signed with the PFL to win everything. I didn’t sign to play a part.
“If people want to target me and they think I’m the guy to beat, I’m the guy to beat. Let’s go. Bring him.”