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The good fight
Surgeon’s efforts essential to Pettis’ UFC championship

Photos by Dan Bishop

June 2014

Anthony "Showtime" Pettis knew 2013 was his year. After winning a World Extreme Cagefighting Lightweight Championship at age 23, Pettis was hungry for another belt.

He had spent most of 2012 recovering from a labral tear in his shoulder, repaired by Dr. William Pennington, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital. Arthroscopic stabilization surgery tightened the ligament and addressed other areas damaged by previous dislocations.

"This procedure allowed treatment to all of the pathology in Anthony’s shoulder and returned him to a high level of physical activity," Pennington says.

But mixed martial arts is "the ultimate contact sport," says Pennington. "It taxes all parts of the body."

Only weeks before a featherweight championship bout, Pettis was injured again. Although the torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee did not require surgery, UFC doctors predicted at least six weeks of therapy. Pettis wasn’t expected to make the fight.

"I was ready to become a champion but I was sidelined," Pettis says. His trusted surgeon, Pennington, offered a cutting-edge technique that would get him back to training within weeks. "He gave me hope," Pettis says.

Pennington’s solution was autologous concentrated platelets, which contain bioactive proteins and growth factors that can accelerate soft tissue repair and regeneration. Pettis had blood drawn that was then spun in a centrifuge. The platelet-rich plasma, extracted from his own cells, was injected in the injured area to initiate healing. The goal was six weeks to recovery.

Pettis wore a brace to protect the ligament and started rehab soon after. "In four weeks I was back to 100 percent," he says. "It was exactly on point. I stayed on track and had my title fight."

On Aug. 31, 2013, Pettis challenged Benson Henderson at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and defeated him in the first round. Pettis is the current UFC Lightweight Champion. "Pennington went out of his way to accommodate me. He did everything in his power to get me back into the octagon," he says.

Platelet-rich plasma treatments are still undergoing clinical trials, and Pennington says the technique won’t work for everyone. "In this situation it helped Anthony heal faster and get back to his sport."


This story ran in the June 2014 issue of: