The turn of a new year brings with it the chance for a fresh start. As the year 2006 came to a close and 2007 approached, Anthony Pettis was eyeing a significant set of changes. And the new year brought as promised—a new beginning, new resolutions and, for Pettis, a new career. Jan. 27, 2007 marked the beginning for “Showtime” Pettis, as he made his MMA debut in spectacular fashion with a 24-second TKO finish of his opponent, Tom Erspamer.

Now, six years later, Pettis is considered to be one of the top lightweights in the world and fights in the world’s top promotion. As the old saying goes, the longer you hear something, the more you start believing it. But for Pettis, it was never a matter of believing, it was a matter of doing.

“I absolutely, 100 percent believe that I am the best lightweight fighter in the world,” Pettis said in an exclusive interview with the MMA Corner. “I am the former WEC champion, and I defeated the current UFC champion in Benson Henderson. Now, it’s just a matter of going out there and proving that I’m the best.”

Pettis (R) lands a head kick (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Pettis will certainly get the opportunity to make a case for himself when he squares off with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone this Saturday in a lightweight showdown on the UFC on Fox 6 main card, which will air live on Fox beginning at 8 pm ET.

Cerrone, who’s also known for his electrifying fighting style, will look to make waves in his own attempt to return to title contention. Both fighters enter Saturday evening’s contest on two-fight winning streaks. However, in what many believe is already locked in as “Fight of the Night,” only one man will prevail victorious and move that much closer towards UFC gold.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to be a tough fight. Cerrone is a tough fighter and his fighting style is tough to beat. When I look at his game, I don’t see too many areas where I can necessary exploit. I have to go in and stick with my game plan,” Pettis explained. “That’s the only way to do it.

“I need this win and it’s going to be an entertaining fight for the fans. This fight will definitely be a finish. I need the finish. I know I can finish him.”

Pettis, who has never been finished in his career, will attempt to be just the second man to submit or knock out Cerrone when their 155 bout begins. To his liking, “Showtime, who was born and raised just an hour and 30 minutes from Chicago, will attempt to accomplish this feat in front of hometown friends and family.

Pettis (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

However, Pettis doesn’t believe fighting in the Windy City will increase his odds this Saturday evening.

“You know, it’s nice being close to home for this fight. I’m all settled in here in Chicago, but I don’t think that really will make a big difference come fight time. It’s a fight and it doesn’t matter where you’re fighting at,” admitted Pettis. “Anything can happen in any given fight.

“I get pretty nervous leading up to most of my fights, especially fights like this. I get nervous before the fight, but it all goes away when I enter the Octagon. When I hear my name announced, that all goes away. I’m ready to fight.”

While Pettis is certainly focused on the opponent at hand in Cerrone, it’s very likely an impressive win will put him next in line for his desired shot at gold. Who Pettis would face next is yet to be known, but he does have a message for those jumping in line.

“I don’t think it’s fair at all that guys come to the UFC and they are getting title shots right away. They haven’t fought in the UFC and they haven’t fought the caliber of opponents that we have. They need to earn their spot before they get their shots. Even still, I need to focus on one fight at a time,” said Pettis.

“My time will come, but I need to take care of Cerrone first.”

Top Photo: Anthony Pettis (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)