According to Anthony Pettis, he is fighting Gilbert Melendez at UFC 181.

Showtime Billing

Anthony Pettis (17-2 with 9 knockouts and 5 submissions) lived up to his “show time “billing by announcing his own return to the octagon on the TV show MMA hour. Pettis confirmed that he will be making the first defense of his UFC Lightweight title against the UFC’s #2 ranked lightweight on December 6th.

Although there has been no official announcement from the UFC, the Pettis-Melendez bout will be the co-featured main event of UFC 181 which will be headlined by the UFC middleweight championship between Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort.

Pettis and Melendez will serve as opposing coaches in the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter. As with previous TUF seasons, the coaches of TUF 20 will square off against each other in the finale.

Delayed Return

Pettis has not fought since UFC 164 when he wrested the UFC lightweight championship from erstwhile champion Benson Henderson in his hometown of Milwaukee. But Pettis suffered a knee injury during the fight and an MRI later showed that Pettis suffered a grade II PCL sprain and LCL sprain to his left knee.

Pettis re-injured the knee in late 2013 and underwent surgery. He was targeted for an August return, but then the UFC preempted that by announcing last February that Pettis would be coaching opposite Gilbert Melendez in TUF 20, hence delaying further his octagon return.

Re-Signing El Nino

Former two time Strikeforce Lightweight champion Gilbert “El nino” Melendez (22-3 with 11 KOs and 1 submission) nearly went to the opposite side of the fence. The 32 year old Sta. Ana, California native received a tempting contract offer from the promotion Bellator early this year which stalled the early negotiations for a bout with Anthony Pettis. But the UFC matched the deal and offered him a coaching stint at TUF 20 which had the accompanying title shot at the finale. Melendez re-signed with the UFC last February and booked a date with the injured Pettis.

Last year, Melendez challenged Benson Henderson for the UFC lightweight title at UFC on Fox: Henderson vs Melendez, but he lost via a close split decision. Melendez fought again at UFC 166 last October 2013 and won a spectacular brawl against TUF 1 winner Diego Sanchez that became 2013’s Fight of the Year.

Getting Criticism

Pettis said that he has been getting criticism from the media and his fellow fighters for spending too much time off the octagon since winning the world title. But he says that his injuries were serious and the TUF gig was “something he did not choose” Showtime says that these words “get under his skin” and he can’t wait to get back in the Octagon and “show that he is the best lightweight in the world.”

Fighting a high caliber opponent like Gilbert Melendez should do that for him.

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