Anthony Pettis aspires to be the
Pettis (18-2), the UFC's lightweight belt-holder, will defend his title Saturday night at American Airlines Arena in Dallas against No. 1 contender Rafael dos Anjos (23-7).
His first defense came in December, submitting Santa Ana High product Gilbert Melendez by guillotine choke in the second round.
Pettis says, following a serious knee injury that sidelined him for more than 15 months, that his "wishful thinking" is to be a routine performer.
"It's my goal to fight as much as possible," Pettis, 28, said. "I had that injury, but now I'm active and I want to stay as active as possible. I've got my eyes on cleaning out the division.
"I want to be the best at 155, hands-down, regardless of who's around. I want to be the pound-for-pound king, want to be a huge pay-per-view draw and I want everyone to know who Anthony Pettis is."
With monthly pay-per-views scheduled, the UFC needs a constant-fighting champion after 2014 injuries sidelined heavyweight Cain Velasquez, light-heavyweight Jon Jones and middleweight Chris Weidman.
Welterweight champion Robbie Lawler won his belt the same night Pettis fought in December, but he won't fight again until July 11.
Dos Anjos (23-7) has won three consecutive bouts, including a first-round knockout of former lightweight champion Benson Henderson and a decision over Nate Diaz, to land the title shot.
"He's a southpaw and he just doesn't quit," Pettis said. "He's a little more well-rounded [than Melendez]. He kicks and also punches ... a smart puncher, with a lot of pressure. These are the fights I take as a champion, all the No. 1's."
Pettis' quick-strike ability, seen against Melendez and in his legendary flying bicycle kick against Henderson, has set the bar high for his fights' entertainment value. He prides himself on his all-around ability, boasting eight submissions and seven knockouts.
"I just go out there and fight my fight and try to do what I can do," Pettis said. "He's willing to stand with me, so when he is, I think you'll see flashy moves and a firefight."
Saturday's card also includes the first women's strawweight title defense by Redondo Beach's Carla Esparza (11-2) against Poland's Joanna Jedrzejczyk (8-0).
Esparza won the belt in December, beating Rose Namajunas by third-round submission, closing "The Ultimate Fighter," reality television series competition.
Now she fights in an NBA/NHL arena, on pay-per-view.
"Usually, in a fight like this, the wrestler [Esparza] wins the fight," she said, with Jedrzejczyk's strengths being in muay thai and boxing.
Esparza attended the Feb. 28 women's bantamweight title fight at Staples Center won by champion Ronda Rousey in 14 seconds.
"She really sets the bar high for women's fighting … dominating in different ways – 14 seconds is hard to beat," Esparza said. "But I definitely want to go out there and put on a stellar performance."