Despite recently being diagnosed with a knee sprain that is expected to keep him out of action for 7-8 weeks, newly minted UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis is aggressively pursuing his first title defense, telling UFC Tonight’s Ariel Helwani that he wants to fight No. 1 contender T.J. Grant at a UFC on FOX event scheduled for Sacramento on Dec. 14.
That timeline would be an ambitious one for the 26-year-old Pettis (17-2), who just won the belt on Aug. 31 with a first-round armbar over Benson Henderson. A 7-8 week return would mean he could start camp sometime around Nov. 1, which would give him six weeks to prepare for Grant.
That’s no given, and neither is Grant’s availability. The Canadian suffered a concussion in June, and is hoping to be able to return to a training camp in November, but he has not yet been medically cleared to take that step.
Grant (21-4) has won five straight since moving to lightweight, including consecutive knockouts of Gray Maynard and Matt Wiman that vaulted him to the top contender slot.
Meanwhile, local stars Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes unsurprisingly told Helwani that they, too, would like to be included on the card, though neither has been promised a spot. Faber’s Team Alpha Male, which includes Mendes as a member, is based in Sacramento. The team, which also houses Joseph Benavidez, T.J. Dillashaw and Danny Castillo, among others, has been on a tear since adding former UFC standout Duane “Bang” Ludwig as its head coach.
The show, which takes place at the Sleep Train Arena, will be the promotion’s first time back in the city since UFC 73 back in July 2007.