The UFC’s lightweight champion Anthony Pettis has stated that he’s hoping to make his return to the Octagon in early July following an extended layoff due to a knee injury he sustained last year.

According to Ariel Helwani on the latest edition of the ‘UFC Tonight’ show on FOX Sports 1, Pettis has earmarked a UFC pay-per-view event on July 5th for his first fight since winning the title against Ben Henderson last August.

If it all works out as planned, the winner of Saturday night’s Josh Thomson Vs Ben Henderson headliner at UFC On FOX 10 could be in the running to face him.

That’d certainly be the case in Thomson’s case at least since he was originally scheduled to fight Pettis late last year before his injury, though there’s a good chance that a victory would not be enough for Henderson since he’s now lost twice to Pettis (once in the UFC and once in the WEC).

The other major contender for a title shot at this stage is likely to be Gilbert Melendez who’s currently ranked at No.2 and is currently without an opponent.

With heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez also injured, GSP having vacated his title to go on an extended time-out and Anderson Silva breaking his leg, news of the lightweight champion’s potential return ahead of schedule will no doubt come as a relief to the UFC as at one stage it was feared that he too would be out for much of 2014.

As it stands, if he does return in July then it’s possible he could now fight twice in 2014 and that would be a major boost for the promotion.

However, Pettis would be wise to proceed with caution and not rush back into the cage prematurely as he’s proven to be somewhat injury prone in recent times and persistent knee troubles are not something to be taken lightly, especially given that he’s still a relatively young fighter at just 26 years of age.