Living up to older brother not easy in UFC

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
9:08
AM ET
Huang By Michael Huang
ESPN.com
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Sergio PettisAl Powers for ESPNWith brother and UFC champ Anthony over his shoulder, bantamweight Sergio Pettis is on the rise.
Just call it brotherly love.

Fans of UFC featherweight Clay Guida might recall a head-shaking prefight ritual between him and brother Jason Guida. Before every one of Clay's fights, in the prefight prep point, Jason would slap his younger -- and significantly smaller -- brother in the face, seemingly to prepare Clay for his fight.

Whap! Whap! Whap!

Whether this was the key to Clay's success is debatable, but he certainly has had a solid and fruitful career in the UFC, which is really what any older brother would want for his younger sibling. Clay first got into MMA because Jason was fighting on a local card in Illinois. They needed a volunteer to fill in for an injured fighter, so Clay jumped in and the rest is history.

There's always a little sibling rivalry between brothers. Younger brothers often look up to their older brothers, using them as yardsticks for their own success or motivation to succeed.

This Saturday, Sergio Pettis, the younger brother of UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, faces Alex Caceres in a bantamweight bout on the undercard of UFC on Fox 10. Expect a smorgasbord of athleticism. Both young fighters are technically skilled strikers with a lot of bounce and speed. For Sergio, it can't get better having his UFC champion and world-class athlete brother to help in training.

"I've got a lot of good people around me, my coaches, training partners, and I have Anthony," Sergio Pettis said. "I can learn from his mistakes. Eventually I want us to be the first pair of brothers to have UFC belts at the same time."

And who better to give him championship advice than his champion older brother.

"Anthony's always said just have fun with it," Sergio Pettis said. "Before my first fight I was starting to get some bad thoughts and hearing too many of the comments people were making. He just said to forget all that and just have fun. So I'm much more relaxed for this fight."

[+] EnlargeNate Diaz and Nick Diaz
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesNate and Nick Diaz have become one of the UFC's more notable brother combinations with each becoming a top contender in recent years.
Mixed martial arts boasts a formidable list of brothers-in-arms. Some of the more notable sets of siblings include the Nogueiras -- Antonio Rodrigo and Antonio Rogerio -- as well as the Ruas -- Mauricio, Murilo and Marcos -- have long histories of success dating back to early PRIDE days. Likewise, the Overeems -- Alistair and Valentijn -- have enjoyed success across fight leagues, and the Millers -- Jim and Dan -- and Diazes -- Nick and Nate -- have been top contenders in the UFC for the last half decade.

Perhaps it's the fraternity of the gym or the brotherhood of combat sports that strengthens the bonds between these sets of siblings, but -- like the Guidas -- it's the older brother who usually introduces the younger brother to MMA. Likewise, Valentijn Overeem brought Alistair to a gym to learn how to defend himself.

But often it's the younger brother who outperforms the older brother. Heck, even Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings, but Peyton only has one.

While Dan Miller is a UFC veteran respected as one of the best BJJ practitioners, Jim has probably experienced more career success than Dan. He doesn't see that as a feather in his cap, however. The brothers take the wins and losses together.

"It's not something I'm really happy about," Jim Miller said. "I want all the success in the world for Dan. He's capable of so much. But because he's the 185-pounder, I'm the one who benefits from our size difference. Fighting one of the best 185-pounders makes fighting 155-pounders easy. If it was reversed, and I was the bigger one, I'm sure he'd be doing better than me."

At 10-0, Sergio Pettis is one of the new breed of young fighters who have trained in multiple disciplines from an early age. After watching Anthony's first three fights, Sergio was bit by the MMA bug. Both have deep backgrounds in taekwondo, with Sergio starting at age three. They even owned their own dojo in Milwaukee at one point with their eldest brother.

Does he think he can eventually eclipse Anthony's success? That's a tall order considering the flash with which Anthony shot up the ranks and captured the UFC lightweight title. "Showtime" might be his brother, but Sergio isn't interested in the spotlight. Is doing better than his brother just a side effect of any success or an objective?

[+] EnlargeJim and Dan Miller
Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesHaving brother Dan, right, two divisions above him to spar against has only helped the growth of lightweight Jim Miller.
"I'm still really new to the UFC, just starting out my career," said Sergio Pettis, who had posted a 9-0 record in MMA feeder league Resurrection Fighting Alliance. "I have a lot of expectations for myself. But there's that possibility that I could be better than Anthony. I'm shooting for that!

"But right now it's about me just finding my way through the UFC and continuing to win. I want to stay active and fight four times this year. I'm still in Anthony's shadow and eventually I'm sure I'll step out from under it, but right now I'm just focused on winning as many fights as I can."

Duke Roufus, coach of the Pettis brothers, has said Sergio has the potential to be even better than Anthony. With Anthony sidelined with a knee injury, Sergio is the reigning Pettis right now. And against Caceres, fans should expect lots of leather flying.

"I know he likes to move around a lot and likes to use some flashy moves," Sergio said. "But I train with Anthony so there's plenty of flashy moves to practice against."

Perhaps for any younger brother, it might be most important to simply live up to the bar standard any older brother might set. That's a tough enough fight.

"Anyone who wants to learn how a man really holds himself with class and composure should watch my brother Dan," Jim Miller said. "I always try to live up to that."

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