To be great is a thing to cherish. To lose that greatness, though… geez, that has to suck.

Anthony Pettis was once great. His high-flying WEC clip, which saw him defy gravity to kick rival Benson Henderson in the face, was the stuff legends are made of. And when he came to the UFC, well, it was only fitting that he won the lightweight belt.

But then he stumbled, and ever since, it’s been a constant stream of disappointments interspersed with a win here or there to keep him relevant. There is no shame in losing to the likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza and Max Holloway, of course. Yet when it came to Pettis, we expected… more.

When Pettis last fought, it was against Dustin Poirier in November. The former champ took another “L” due to a rib injury. And now he’s slated to face TUF winner Michael Chiesa at UFC 223.

Pettis spoke with Ariel Helwani on “The MMA Hour” recently, and the word “gatekeeper” came up, with Pettis saying he that’s exactly what he doesn’t want to be. Unfortunately, the ex-champ is fading – fading from his status as elite fighter, fading from the sport that he was once great in – and it’s a sad thing to behold.

“The theory that I had going into those last couple fights is that I [needed to stop] chasing, trying to be chasing that gold,” Pettis said. “I was trying to get that belt immediately. It was, ‘Next fight, who’s the next fight to get me to the belt, who’s the next fight to get me to the belt?’ [But I need to be] just fixing the holes in my games, and it’s just a mental thing, I guess, just getting my mental preparation better. I’m just going in there no matter what’s going on in my camp, whether I feel good or if I don’t feel good, just going out there, turning it on for 15 minutes and having a good performance.

“I’m not in this to be a gatekeeper,” Pettis added. “I’m not in this to have guys make their name off of me. I’ve been the best in the world. I know I can do it, it’s just taking my time and getting back there the right way.”