Friday, June 3, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Fans at the Palms for Saturday’s “The Ultimate Fighter” season 13 finale fight card need not be alarmed when Anthony Pettis stands in front of his corner before his headlining bout against Clay Guida.
No matter what they think, they aren’t suffering from double vision. The man behind Pettis with the identical face and matching mannerisms isn’t an imaginary image or a smaller clone. It’s Anthony’s little brother, 17-year old Sergio Pettis.
“He’s a part of all my training camps,” Anthony, 24, said. “He’s my main training partner. It’s cool for me to be able to give him something.”
The Pettis brothers, who are from Milwaukee, dove into martial arts together and plan to keep it that way. They started training in taekwondo as children until Anthony became a third-degree black belt and wanted a new challenge.
He found mixed martial arts and Sergio followed closely behind. Since then, Anthony has become a WEC champion and looks to keep his status as a top UFC lightweight contender with a win over Guida. Sergio is undefeated as an amateur bantamweight fighter and will turn professional on Aug. 18 when he turns 18 years old.
Both credit each other for where they are in their careers.
“He’s my best friend, training partner and father figure as well,” Sergio said. “He’s always there for me. We are really close and he pushes me every day.”
Anthony and Sergio were brought closer through tragedy. Less than eight years ago, they lost their father.
Eugene Pettis, whose image is now tattooed on Anthony’s left shoulder, was stabbed to death during a robbery attempt at a friend’s house. Sergio was so young that he doesn’t remember the circumstances as vividly as Anthony.
“I was 10 years old at the time, so I didn’t even understand completely what happened,” Sergio said. “But as I grew older with all my friends at wrestling meets, their fathers were there and it was kind of depressing. But my brother Anthony was there, so it was alright.”
Sergio quickly became a successful high school wrestler with Anthony’s guidance. He always worked out with Anthony but didn’t become his primary training partner until last March.
Anthony was coming off his first and only career loss, a split decision defeat to Bart Palaszewski in December 2009, when he decided Sergio was up to the task of emulating his next opponent in the gym. Sergio trained with Anthony every day at MMA coach Duke Roufus’ gym in Milwuakee in preparation for Danny Castillo at WEC 47.
Anthony went on to knock out Castillo in the first round of their bout.
“I’m not saying this just because I’m his brother: He holds his own against me and I don’t take it easy on him,” Anthony said. “He’s a great wrestler and his style is crazy.”
Anthony is predicting his brother’s career to explode and says Sergio will be in the UFC before long. Anthony is just going to find it difficult to watch.
The most nervous Anthony has ever felt before a bout didn’t come when he faced Ben Henderson for the WEC title at the end of last year. It’s a tie between every time Sergio has fought.
“When I’m in my fight, I’m nervous but not near as nervous as I am watching him,” Anthony said. “It’s out of my control. When he goes in there, I know my mom is watching and my family is watching. I know whatever happens in there is my fault because I led him to it.”
Luckily for Anthony, he’s had nothing to worry about up to this point. Sergio has won all three of his amateur fights by stoppage.
Sergio made his debut when he was only 15 years old. He knocked out his 22-year-old opponent in less than a minute.
“I’ve got a big name already with Pettis. That last name means I’ve got to live up to the hype he’s had,” Sergio said. “I’ve got high expectations, but I feel like I can reach them because of my training with him.”
Anthony said he thought Sergio had particularly improved as a fighter during the Guida training camp. It’s been six months since Anthony last fought, the longest layoff in his career, and Sergio got assigned the task of playing Guida in the gym.
Guida’s high-energy, relentless wrestling style is nearly impossible to imitate, but Anthony said Sergio pulled it off.
Anthony Pettis Kick
All Anthony has heard about since his last fight was the kick he landed to Henderson’s face. In six months, the strike has become one of the most famous kicks in the history of mixed martial arts.
But Sergio hinted that Anthony could top it Saturday.
“People think he’s going to be a one-kick wonder, but he’s so creative,” Sergio said. “People are going to see some cool stuff this fight. We’ve been talking about it. The kick got him really famous, but I think he can do better. He’s going to do something more crazy.”
Sergio’s ultimate goal is to star alongside his brother in the UFC. He said he envisioned a day where the Pettis brothers surpass the Diaz brothers as MMA’s most well known siblings.
Anthony said he knew the time would come.
“I guarantee my brother makes a big move in the sport,” Pettis said. “Right now, it’s my time but he’s going to be 18 pretty soon and hopefully we will both be fighting on the same card sometime pretty soon.”