Friday, June 3, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Anthony Pettis has plenty of reasons why he handpicked Clay Guida as his next opponent.
Guida doesn’t need to hear any of them. He’s made up his mind on how he feels about the situation.
“I think it’s the biggest mistake he’s ever made in his career,” Guida said. “I think it’s great for me, not so great for him.”
Pettis and Guida meet in the headlining bout of Saturday’s “The Ultimate Fighter” 13 finale card at the Palms. It’s a contest Pettis, the final WEC lightweight champion before the promotion merged with the UFC, never anticipated having.
Before the UFC 125 title fight between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, the UFC paraded Pettis around as the top lightweight contender. Pettis was left with a tough decision when the bout ended in a draw and UFC President Dana White granted Maynard an immediate rematch with Edgar.
He could either not fight and wait for his title shot, which White strongly advised against, or select his next opponent. Pettis (13-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) wanted Guida (28-11 MMA, 8-5 UFC) and the UFC obliged.
Guida sees it as an opportunity to seize all of the hype Pettis, who is aptly nicknamed “Showtime,” has built.
“The UFC, Joe Silva and Dana White, are going to realize who they want for the title shot,” Guida said.
Guida has reinvented himself since a tough stretch a year-and-a-half ago when his future with the UFC was in flux. Guida lost two straight in late 2009, to Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian, to drop his UFC record to 5-5. A third straight defeat usually spells the UFC releasing a fighter from his contract.
Not even wanting to think about that possibility, Guida packed up from his home near Chicago and moved to Albuquerque, N.M., to train at Greg Jackson’s camp. He’s won three straight fights since, all by submission, and said his worth ethic after the move was responsible for the resurgence.
“Everyone trains hard in the UFC and mixed martial arts, but I know I outwork everybody,” Guida said. “There are probably higher-skilled than me, better fighters all around but when it comes to the nitty-gritty, hard work and heart, I know I’m better.”
Guida is known to fight with more energy than anyone on the UFC’s roster. His last fight, a win over former PRIDE lightweight champion Takanori Gomi at UFC 125, was a testament to that.
Guida utilized constant movement from the opening bell to frustrate Gomi and elude his striking attacks. He left an impression on Pettis, who watched from the front row.
“That was a big reason I chose Clay,” Pettis said. “That and he’s an exciting fighter. Everybody knows who Clay Guida is.”
Pettis said he also wanted Guida because his style reminded him of both Edgar’s and Maynard’s. If Pettis gets past Guida, he’s expected to regain his status as the top contender.
Pettis thinks Guida is good preparation for either foe he could face in a championship fight.
“It’s not that I’m looking past him,” Pettis said. “He’s a very tough opponent, but fighting wrestler-to-wrestler really helps my training camps.”
Guida could take that statement as a slight, or at least a measure of how confident Pettis is that he will beat him. But he won’t.
The only gaffe Pettis made, according to Guida, came when he requested the fight.
“He’s been in the big show for a while,” Guida said. “But he’s about to find out what ‘Showtime’ is all about.”