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Anthony Pettis eyes late summer return, suggests Jim Miller fight

Max Holloway defeated Anthony Pettis by TKO at UFC 206. Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis says he probably tried to force things too much in 2016.

After losing his UFC title to Rafael dos Anjos in 2015, Pettis (19-6) went into last year on a mission. He fought four times in 2016, which he hadn't done since 2010. Results were not great, as he went 1-3.

"I was rushing for my title shot," Pettis told ESPN.com's Five Rounds podcast. "I was right there at 145 pounds and still in the running at 155. I think it was rough on my body [doing that]. I had a lot of injuries I needed to heal up and I wasn't healing them up. I was just going right to the next camp."

Just about every decision Pettis made last year was based around getting a title shot as soon as possible. He took on an extremely challenging weight cut in order to drop to featherweight, which eventually led to him missing weight for the first time in his career at UFC 206 in December.

Pettis, 30, does not currently have a fight booked, but he says he's healthy now and eyeing a July or August return.

While the Milwaukee native is not necessarily looking to start over, Pettis says this recent streak has him refocused on the day-to-day, fight-by-fight process.

"I'm going to take my time at 155 pounds," Pettis said. "I was in a rush to get back into title contention. Everybody I fought besides [Charles] Oliveira was a the No. 1 contender or a former champion. I'm going to go back to the 155-pound division, work my way back to the top and see how far I can take it again.

"I was the king of lightweight in both the WEC and UFC. I have to go back there and keep doing that, with no pressure on myself. There's no lack of motivation, no superstition. It's just me, out there grinding hard and winning fights."

As far as specific names for potential opponents, Pettis mentioned several he thought would make sense, including Jim Miller (28-9).

"Yeah, I was looking to get Jim Miller," Pettis said. "He was the only guy not booked, besides [Michael] Johnson. I let my management take care of who I'm fighting, but there's Miller, Johnson, Nate Diaz. There's a bunch of guys out there I'd like to fight."

On his recent struggles in general, Pettis says he hasn't lost any passion for the sport and looks at the December debacle as a valuable learning experience. It may have been something of a lost year for him in 2016, but at least he knows, unequivocally, that he belongs at 155 pounds.

And although he often uses his 23-year-old younger brother and UFC flyweight, Sergio, as a source of motivation, Pettis says he's well aware of everything it takes to fight at the highest level of this sport -- and he still possess it.

"Every organization I've fought in, I've been a champion," Pettis said. "My skill set never left. My skill set is still there. It's just these fine, little seconds I have to figure out. In fighting, you've got a millisecond to react. I've been a little slow in my reaction."