Forrest Petz is probably the nicest guy you’ll meet with the nickname “The Meat Cleaver”, and that alone makes his return to the UFC this weekend to face talented up and comer Daniel “Ninja” Roberts welcome news. Well, that and the fact that I get to write “Meat Cleaver”, but I digress.
What Petz’ trip back to the Octagon means for fight fans is that we will get to see a blue collar guy with a blue collar attitude and fighting style get a second chance to begin a run towards the welterweight title. And that may not have been the case had he listened to his first gut instincts following his release from the organization in 2007 and losses in two of his next three fights.
“I really considered hanging it up,” said the 34-year old Petz of his mindset following back-to-back losses to TJ Grant and Victor O’Donnell in 2008-09. “But that thought only really entered my mind for a couple of days because I knew I was improving as a fighter. It was a matter of things coming together. Even though I was growing and getting better at other things, I was getting away from the things that I was good at before, and I was waiting for them to synergize, I guess. It started coming together, and my next four fights, I got back on track.”
Starting in June of 2009, Cleveland’s Petz began a four bout winning streak that included wins over Chad Reiner and Brendan Seguin, and following his May 21st decision victory over Ralph Johnson, manager Monte Cox told him to be prepared in case something came up.
And it did, when Julio Paulino pulled out of his UFC 116 bout against Roberts due to injury.
“My manager told me to keep my weight down and be ready for something, just because people were asking about me here and there, so I did, and when the call came I was still surprised about it, but I was very happy.”
A veteran of nearly eight years in the fight game, Petz (24-7) parlayed a 2006 win over future welterweight title challenger Dan Hardy into an Octagon bid, and after a punishing win over Sam Morgan in his UFC debut in August of ’06, it looked like Petz would be staying around for a while. But losses to Marcus Davis and Kuniyoshi Hironaka followed, and despite getting back in the win column with a victory over Luigi Fioravanti, when he dropped a split decision to Josh Burkman at UFC 77 in October of 2007, he was released. It was a call that came as a surprise to Petz, but he was not about to be deterred on his journey back.
“You have short-term goals and long-term goals, and my short-term was just to go out there and win as many fights as I could and hopefully things fell in place where I was in a position where the UFC wanted me back,” he said. “And then when I get back, I have to be in a position where I know I can do some damage when I’m there. I don’t want to just show up; I want to make sure I’ve grown as a fighter and that the things that I did the first time that got me cut don’t happen again.”
Petz did his part, winning his fights, and rounding out a game that still centers on his knockout punching power. As for returning to the UFC, he wasn’t going to lose his mind over it.
“I was ready for another fight, and I was just gonna keep running them off until something bigger happened,” he said of his spring 2010 mindset. “I was ready to fight anywhere. If I was fighting on the local circuit over here, that was fine. As long as I’m staying busy, I was okay with it. The other things are out of my control, so I’m not going to stress over it. I’m just gonna do my job, which is to win fights.”
And like with most life matters, when you least expect it, good things happen. For Petz, that was the request to fight Roberts this weekend in Las Vegas.
“I know he’s athletic, he’s a good wrestler, has good jiu-jitsu, and he’s a tough guy,” said ‘The Meat Cleaver’ of his foe. “And coming off a loss, I’m sure he’s gonna have something to prove, and that’s fine with me. I like guys who come after it like that. A guy who comes to fight, that’s the guy who’s gonna get you Fight of the Night.”
That covers Roberts’ resume, but what should fans expect from Petz in his first fight back?
“As a fighter I’ve become more well-rounded, and a bit more polished than I was before,” he said. “I was pretty one-dimensional and if you get too one-dimensional, you get stagnant. There’s footage of me out there, people put together a game plan for you, and if you’ve only got one thing they need to worry about, then you’re in the hole. So I’ve gotten to where I’m comfortable everywhere in MMA.”
He’s also let the pressure of being in the UFC go. He’s here, that’s the important thing, and he’s going to make the most of it.
“I’m having fun,” said Petz. “If you don’t like what you’re doing,
find something else to do. There’s a saying I heard one time: the next
best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing. I don’t look
forward to losing, I don’t like losing, but I’m still playing.”