It is one of the rare universal truths in life: older brothers beat up younger brothers. As an older brother, I took great joy over the years in mercilessly beating up my younger brother. I would make him hit himself, force him to wrestle until he vomited, and made sure he knew that my every video game failure was his fault and his fault alone.
Now that we’re both adults, he’s taller than me, more successful, and has his shit together while I do … this. I totally take credit for what he’s become as a man. I know – know – that my beatings fueled him. They gave him the fire and every other pop psychology motivator one knows to become a great man.
Now then, imagine if you’re Sergio Pettis. Inevitably, your older brother did the same to you. Except your older brother is Anthony Pettis: one of the greatest fighters on earth and the former UFC Lightweight Champion.
If an older brother being good at things and beating you up creates a younger brother that turns out to surpass his elder then sweet lord is Sergio going to be a god soon.
Tomorrow night is not his debut – it’s his 6th fight in the UFC. He’s had mixed results, if you just look at his record. He’s won at 135 lbs, 125 lbs, but lost at both. He’s lost in the closing seconds of fights he should have won and he’s suffered the inevitable out of nowhere knock-out loss that can befall anyone in the game.
But throughout his UFC tenure – let alone the entirety of his MMA career – Sergio Pettis has time and again demonstrated world class skills. His striking is textbook perfect. He’s rarely out of position, never off balance, mixes both power and speed well in a manner that keeps opponents off guard. And on the ground, he’s developed at a clip that’s astonishing.
I remember when I saw Sergio get his blue belt in BJJ. He got it from the same man who gave me my blue belt so I had a rough idea of where he was at skill level. Well, I thought I did. Let me tell you: I ain’t doing that well inside a fight when it comes to grappling. His natural skills on the mat seem to grow exponentially between fights. At everything he does, Sergio has shown more natural ability and poise than his older brother – you know, the guy who is one of the greatest on earth.
Of course things can happen. He could get a serious injury. The lifestyle of being popular could catch up with him, drugs, alcohol, women – all those fun things that make life worth living but which are a problem for becoming a world champion. But for a kid who is only 22 years old but already has two years in the UFC to his credit, Pettis may have as bright a future as any fighter on earth.
Sure, there’s been some attention lately for the latest flavor of the month – Sage Northcutt, mostly because he undeniably beat the crap out of the Daniel-San at one point. And from what little we’ve seen of Sage on the regional circuit, he’s definitely good. But he’s only 3 years younger than Sergio. And Sergio has been more impressive while fighting UFC caliber opponents.
And unlike many young fighters with a lot of skill, Pettis didn’t get to skate by anonymously for a while. He didn’t have the luxury of sneaking up on people and after a few years in the company everyone goes, “Oh, shit, he’s awesome.” Because of his surname, he’s had the spotlight shining on him from day one.
No, he hasn’t been perfect. He’s young. He’s growing. But look at any other sport on earth and find an athlete his age doing that well, showing this much promise, and you’d be talking about LeBron James, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Sidney Crosby, and so on. Or to put it another way: he was in the UFC at a younger age than Jon Jones was when Jones debuted.
Sergio Pettis isn’t headlining tomorrow night. He shouldn’t be. But he will be soon. The future of the flyweight and bantamweight divisions is knocking on the door. A champion is developing before our eyes.
Let’s just hope he remembers that he owes it all to his older brother!