“Families are the compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.” – Brad Henry
New UFC Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis achieved one of his dreams, claiming the UFC lightweight title with a first-round submission victory over Benson Henderson at UFC 164, but the victory was about more than just the belt for the 26-year-old, instead it was all for his family.
Pettis lost his father, Eugene, in 2003, when he was just 16 years old. His father was murdered by a would-be robber at a friend’s house, leaving no male role model for him while growing up.
Like many before him, Pettis found MMA following his father’s death, but fighting was already in the Pettis’ blood, as he and his brother both held black belts in Tae Kwon Do.
Pettis, along with his mom and two brothers, came close to leaving Milwaukee after Eugene passed away, but the love for their father kept them from relocating, wanting to stay close to him. Pettis made sure to dedicate his first UFC title win to his late father, visiting his grave with the belt just hours after securing victory in the Octagon.
“You know what? I’m taking this belt to him right now,” Pettis said. “I’m driving right to his grave site and he’s going to see the belt.”
He later tweeted a photo from the grave site with the words, “No matter the circumstances, u can make a positive from any situation!!! Love u pops!”
“My mom is like the rock to my family,” he admitted. “I have a tattoo on my chest that says, ‘All that I ever will be, I owe to my mother.’ She lost the love of her life. She could have abandoned her sons, but she didn’t use that as an excuse to do whatever she wanted in her life.
“She stood there and supported three boys. The things she did for me, I could never pay her back. As I get older, I see what she’s done for me and it’s amazing.
“If I’m half the parent she is, I’ll be a good parent.”
Many doubted Pettis’ wrestling ability and picked out holes in his game in the lead-up to the fight with Henderson, but it was all about the mental side for the 26-year-old, who admitted that he had to fill holes outside of the cage and mature.
“I have a daughter now. I’ve matured so much as a man,” he continued. “Every time I talk about my daughter, I get emotional. Everything I do is for her. The money I make, the choices I make, the way I represent myself is all about her.”
Pettis’ younger brother Sergio was in the corner for his older brother on Saturday night, but according to Anthony, Serio isn’t one to live off of his older brother’s name and has forged his own path through life, but not without guidance.
“My little brother is one of those guys that works for himself,” Pettis said. “He doesn’t live off my name; he doesn’t live off anything I do. He’s in the gym every day. He’s just turned 20 years old.
“He wants this. I don’t want to be the brother that pushes a career on his brother. I gave him an option, I gave him a path, and if he wants to take it, it’s totally up to him. He’s showing me he wants to do it.”
While the bond between the Pettis’ can never be taken away, neither can the fact that Anthony Pettis is now a UFC champion.
(Photos courtesy of Anthony Pettis / Follow @AndrewMMA_ on Twitter)