Sergio Pettis may be the reigning Bellator bantamweight champion, but the last year didn’t go according to plan.

Pettis captured the 135-pound strap with a stunning spinning back-elbow knockout Kyoji Horiguchi, but injury meant that he was unable to compete in the subsequent Bellator Bantamweight Grand Prix tournament.

It meant Pettis missed out on the chance of a second belt and a potential $1 million payday. But, despite that disappointment, Pettis is philosophical about the situation, and said he’s ready to return refreshed and in form this weekend in Chicago at Bellator 297.

“I’m blessed to be back here. It’s been 18 months. I’ve learned a lot over the last year, more personal than anything, but I think I’ve done the right things to be ready.

“It was hard to overcome (the disappointment) at first. I missed out on three fights last year and the chance to become a millionaire. But I think it was a sign from the universe. I came into this sport to start a legacy, but it became about money. I think this fight is the perfect fight to restart my career.”

Pettis returns to action in the co-main event at Wintrust Arena, where he’ll face current featherweight champion and former two-division king Patricio Pitbull, who is moving down a division in a bid to make history as the first three-division champion in a major global MMA organization. It’s a huge fight for both men, with Pettis claiming that the matchup is the biggest of his life.

“This is the biggest fight of my career, for sure,” he said.

“Especially after the injury, getting thrown into the deep end, for sure.”

While Pettis has had to rehab his injuries and get back to full fitness before preparing to face arguably the greatest champion in Bellator history, Pitbull has had to prepare to make the drop down to 135 pounds. As the champion, Pettis said he has no concerns over Pitbull’s preparations, and predicted no issues for the Brazilian during fight week in Chicago.

“I’m sure with the amount of time he had to prepare, I’m sure he did the nutrition right,” he said.

“But I fought at 125 before, so I know what it’s like to cut an extra 10 pounds. It’s a lot. But I’m sure he’ll be himself, and that’s what I’m ready for.

“I know he brought out my old coach to train with him, so I think they’re trying to play some mind games about me. He was my coach three years ago, and I’ve changed so much since then. It’s OK. It’s a business — he was my old coach, but he has a family to feed.”

Much of the talk ahead of the matchup surrounds Pitbull’s bid to become a three-division champion, but Pettis isn’t letting it distract him from his assignment.

“This guy’s getting greedy, man. I get it, he’s trying to make a legacy, but I think he’s looking past me.” he said.

“I’m not worried about this whole narrative of three-time champion or me coming back,” he said.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better in the sport and as a person. This whole narrative is cool for social media, but I’m going to go out there and get the job done. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to win.

“I don’t know anything about ring rust; it’s my first time dealing with ring rust. I think it’s more of a mental thing. I’m not putting that into my head at all. It’s going out there, being natural, and being me. If I’m me, I don’t think ring rust will be a problem at all. I’ve had a lot of stress that I’m ready to let loose of this Friday night.”