Jon Fitch - Taking it to the People
By Thomas Gerbasi
Never underestimate the power of modern technology to get your point across. Just ask 170-pound contender Jon Fitch, who, disappointed at missing the cut for the pay-per-view broadcast of this weekend’s UFC 68 show in Columbus, Ohio, posted a bulletin about it through his myspace account, which at press time shows him having 3,403 ‘friends’.
“I get a lot of e-mails asking when I’m fighting and when they can see me and I posted a bulletin to let everybody know that my fight wasn’t gonna be shown so I could cut down on the e-mail I was getting,” said Fitch, who takes on hard-hitting Luigi Fioravanti on Saturday. “And I tacked on at the end, if you’re disappointed that you’re not getting to see me on the main card, voice your disappointment to the UFC.”
There was no UFC e-mail listed, no contact info for the promoter, but when resourceful fans get on the case, funny things can happen, and soon, Fitch’s manager Bob Cook was getting an e-mail from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, asking that the bulletin be taken down because e-mail boxes were getting flooded by irate fans of the Indiana born welterweight.
“I didn’t even think that many people paid attention to the bulletins, so it’s pretty crazy it got a response like that,” admitted Fitch with a chuckle. “I expected 15-20 people to write in, so I was kinda surprised that I have that much support and that people are that passionate enough to write in about it. To take the time to find an e-mail address and notify everybody else and get them involved, that’s pretty nice that people care enough to do that.”
Maybe it’s because the no-nonsense Fitch has proven to be one of the best welterweights in the division, but also one who hasn’t gotten the mainstream coverage afforded to the likes of Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, Diego Sanchez, or even recent Ultimate Fighter 4 winner Matt Serra. Fitch is practical about the whole matter though.
“I think part of it is kinda where I fall into place with everybody else,” he admits. “170 is a stacked weight class and there are a lot of guys there who have been around longer than me, and then you have the UFC really trying to build up guys from the other weight classes. So these things working together kinda put me on the backshelf right now.”
Well, he could start talking trash and making a lot of noise to get attention. Nah, not his style.
“The guys who make a lot of noise, a lot of times they don’t have a lot of longevity,” said Fitch. “They may make waves for a short period of time, but in the long run, they don’t stick around. A great example of someone who paid his dues and didn’t do any of the hype crap, who went out and fought and won a lot of fights is Chuck Liddell. He kept his mouth shut, fought hard, fought often, and he got to where he is by hard work, not by having some hype or image.”
Fitch, 28, a former Division I wrestler at Purdue who packed up and left Indiana for San Jose and the American Kickboxing Academy in 2003, has been putting in the long hours at the gym, recently getting his brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu from Dave Camarillo, and putting together four UFC wins without a loss. Most recently, he scored a hard-fought three round unanimous decision over Japan’s Kuniyoshi Hironaka at UFC 64 last October. The win was impressive given the level of opposition he was facing, but the fact that most mainstream fans didn’t know who Hironaka was may have hurt Fitch’s chances for more recognition from casual fans.
“I don’t let that bother me,” said Fitch. “From the beginning of my training, when I first moved out to California, I focused on technique, my own ability, my own growth, and my own performances. The rest is all secondary. It’s nice to have people notice and give you recognition, but that’s not what makes you happy at the end of the day, it’s not what makes you sleep well. I was disappointed with the fight (against Hironaka) because I made some mistakes in there, and there were technical things that I wasn’t happy with. So it’s good to have the win, but there were still a lot of things I saw that I needed to work on after that fight.”
And once he got the green light to fight again after healing his nose, which was broken in the Hironaka fight, Fitch was back in the gym pounding away with some of MMA’s best as he prepared for Fioravanti, who has the type of power that can change any fight in an instant. Then again, getting hit by the likes of Mike Swick, Phil Baroni, and Trevor Prangley is no picnic either. But as beneficial as such sparring can be, Fitch admits that it’s still not the same as a fight.
“It adds to your confidence to be able to hang with some of the best guys in the world on a daily basis, but everything changes when you put on four ounce gloves and take the headgear off,” he said. “It’s a different impact on the gloves and your head. I’ve gone multiple rounds with (former UFC middleweight contender) Phil Baroni before and he’s hit me where I’ve gone ‘man, that was kinda hard,’ and kept going, but in a fight, I’d be waking up in the locker room.”
So to keep from suffering that fate against Fioravanti, Fitch is sharpening his technique and his focus on the fight, and definitely looking to take the fight to the mat.
“Technically, all-around I’m a better fighter than him,” said Fitch of Fioravanti, who is coming off two straight stoppage wins in the UFC. “He’s got a lot of heart and he’s a really powerful striker. He doesn’t have a big series of combinations that he throws with guys, but he has a really good 1-2 and he’ll put you on your ass if you’re not careful. But I’ve got a good reach advantage on him and I feel that the ground is where I will really be able to take advantage of him.”
Oddly enough, even though the two fighters’ styles are diverse, they do share similarities in former day jobs, as both worked in bars – Fioravanti as security, Fitch as a bartender. And while Fioravanti ditched the full-time gig to train exclusively, Fitch still puts in a few hours behind the bar.
“It’s a lot of fun and a little bit of extra money,” said Fitch, but it’s got to be weird fighting in a packed arena one night and taking drink orders the next, right?
“It’s a good lesson in humility working in a bar,” he said. “At a fight, people will shake your hands, take pictures, and then you go to work and people are bossing me around, ‘hey, give me a lime’, ‘give me some olives,’ ‘wash this glass.’ It’s a lesson in humility, it really keeps you grounded, and I think it’s really beneficial for me to do that.”
Fitch even claims that when he hits the big time he’ll stick do a few shifts just for fun. Even if he starts making Chuck Liddell money?
“If I’m making Chuck Liddell money, I might own a bar, and then I can do a little guest appearance every once in a while and make a few drinks.”
First he’ll have to get past Fioravanti, and then claw his way through perhaps the most competitive division in the game. Fitch knows he’s getting closer though.
“I think I’m on the front lawn, about three steps from knocking on the door,” he said, when asked how close he thinks he is to a title shot. “I feel I’m good enough to beat anybody in the world right now, but unfortunately a lot of those top guys are tied up. Diego (Sanchez) is fighting (Josh) Koscheck coming up. Matt Serra and GSP are fighting, and (Matt) Hughes and (Chris) Lytle are fighting. Then if GSP and Hughes win there will probably be a third fight between them. So that’s most of 2007 right there.”
Is it tough being patient?
“If you keep doing the right things, develop your skills, get your technique down, and everything else will fall into place after a while. But if I get through Luigi, I would like to fight Karo (Parisyan) because that’s the next logical step to climb the ladder to get to that title shot. It’s a helluva fight, but I think that’s the only way to do it.”
It’s Jon Fitch’s way.
its only a matter of time before fitch gets the recognition he deserves, unless he drops the ball in his fiorvanti fight which is unlikely. good article though, surprised to see someone of his caliber still putting hours into the bartending gig.
Jon Fitch seems like a grounded individual with a refreshing outlook on his career.
His call on the 170 lb. title on lockdown for anyone besides Serra/Hughes in 2007 is on point.
I remember the first thing I heard about this guy was a controversial fight in Canada with Joselin. Can anyone clarify the events of that fight and why it was so controversial?
Fitch was winning the match but in the third round during the match he called a time out when he was getting tagged by Joselin... and the ref let him have a timeout to check a cut that was on the inside of his mouth. After that all the wind had been taken out of Josleins sails and Fitch ended up winning.
As you know... fighters can't call timeouts, the timing seemed perfect for Fitch, and if there was a cut no one knows.
I want Fitch and Diego for number 1 contender status.