UFC contender Anthony “Showtime” Pettis‘s hometown Milwaukee holds an annual Summerfest, now in its 45th year, which bills itself as the world’s largest music festival, and the fine folks at Guinness World Records confirm it. For two weeks each summer (this year: June 26–July 7), the brewing hub along Lake Michigan hosts the busy concert series known as the “Big Gig,” with major headliners ranging from Metallica and Pearl Jam to Prince and Stevie Wonder.
One of the most enthusiastic voices in last year’s crowd for a jam-packed performance by the rapper Wiz Khalifa belonged to Anthony Pettis, a native son who has become the face of Milwaukee’s fighting spirit. On August 3rd, Pettis will challenge UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo for the title belt. Already one of the top-ranked lightweight contenders, Pettis will drop down to featherweight (145 lbs.) to make the fight with Aldo.
They’re both electrifying fighters. “I think Aldo is one of those guys everyone’s afraid of, and that’s intriguing for me,” he tells ‘Men’s Journal.’ “He’s on the [UFC’s] ‘pound for pound’ list, and that’s where I want my name to be . . . It’s definitely a superfight.”
Pettis’s nickname, “Showtime,” was validated when he unleashed one of mixed martial arts’ more memorable moments in late 2010 against the current UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, scoring a knockdown by pushing off the cage with his foot, then kicking his opponent flush in the side of the face. “Did you see that?” screamed announcer Stephen Bonnar. “He ran off the wall like a ninja!”
That fight earned Pettis the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight championship. It was their last fight in the WEC before the organization’s merger with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Pettis, who has a record of 16-2, is always in training, so his annual visits to Summerfest with his family provide him with a chance to blow off steam – and find a little comic relief. “I can’t drink,” he says, “so it’s funny to watch all these drunk people walk around during the daytime.” He appreciates the fact that the festival books music for all tastes: “I’m into reggaeton and salsa music. There’s a real variety.”
With his trainer, former kickboxer Duke Roufus, Pettis co-owns the Showtime Sports Bar in Milwaukee. Roufus has helped make MMA the sport that made Milwaukee famous, with his gym producing stars such as Bonnar, Jens Pulver, and Erik Koch. Pettis loves the fact that his hometown has been fertile ground for MMA fighters: “There’s a core group of guys who are getting after it,” he says. Not that he would ever consider leaving: “My family’s huge, man,” he says. “My grandpa on my mom’s side had 17 kids. For my daughter’s birthday, I think we had 500 people there. It was nuts.” With a name like Showtime, the man can undoubtedly work a crowd.