Coming off a win at UFC 94 against Akihiro Gono in May, Jon Fitch looks to make it two in a row since losing in his bid to dethrone UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
In his way stands Brazilian Paulo Thiago who, in his UFC debut, took out one of Fitch’s team mates Josh Koscheck in a huge upset victory that no one really predicted. Fitch will be out to avenge Koscheck’s defeat as well as further himself on the path back to a shot at the title.
In this MMAnews.com exclusive, Fitch talks to Chris Howie about his upcoming bout this weekend at UFC 100, where he stands in the title picture, what he has going on outside the cage, and much much more.
Chris Howie Of MMANews.com: How are things going Jon?
Jon Fitch: Things are good man.
MMANews.com: How has your training gone? Must be pretty much wrapped up at this point?
Jon Fitch: Yeah all the hard training is done. Right now I’m still doing a little cardio and getting ready for Vegas.
MMANews.com: How are you feeling going into the fight?
Jon Fitch: I feel real good
MMANews.com: What are your thoughts on Paulo Thiago?
Jon Fitch: All the fights I’ve seen from him including the (Josh) Koscheck fight is that he likes to move forward and bring the fight.
MMANews.com: Did you pick anything up from him watching the fight with Josh?
Jon Fitch: We couldn’t get a lot from it to be honest. I had to dig a little deeper to find some other stuff. He definitely has some power in his hands and I have to respect that but other than that there wasn’t a whole lot to take away from the Koscheck fight.
MMANews.com: Going into that fight were you guys under the impression he was a BJJ guy?
Jon Fitch: The strategy with Josh was that we didn’t know a lot about him and we knew he had some ground game so we tried to avoid that.
MMANews.com: How are you feeling you match up with him?
Jon Fitch: I think my ground game is comparable to his and I think my wrestling and stand up will be better than his but it all comes down to bringing it on fight night.
MMANews.com: With a win in this fight, do you feel you are back in title contention? Where do you feel you stand in the division right now?
Jon Fitch: I feel I would be close with a win and I feel I am ready but it all comes down to what the bosses think. I’m prepared to do what it takes and fight as often as I can before the end of the year to grow as much as I can as a fighter and an athlete between now and then.
MMANews.com: Without something drastic happening in this fight, do you feel you will get another fight in before the end of the year?
Jon Fitch: I would like to. I wouldn’t mind getting one or even two fights before the end of the year .
MMANews.com: If you weren’t to get a title shot who do you feel is ahead of you on the ladder?
Jon Fitch: I don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about what other people are doing. I try to focus on my technique and what I need to do to make myself the best possible fighter in MMA I can be. At the end of the day hopefully that puts me above everybody else.
MMANews.com: Where do you see this fight going?
Jon Fitch: I fight every fight the same way. I don’t try to go in any one direction — I try to take fight wherever it needs to go. I’m prepared to fight anywhere.
MMANews.com: Considering all the fuss that surrounded yourself and the UFC video game, have you had a chance to play the game since its released?
Jon Fitch: I played it a few times and think it’s a lot of fun. I’ve played it with my friends and we always have a good time. I don’t think I’m good enough to go online yet because I don’t want to get made fun of by a thirteen year old kid.
MMANews.com: But on the other side of the coin, you could take that kid into the Octagon.
Jon Fitch: And teach him a lesson.
MMANews.com: Anything else going on Jon?
Jon Fitch: Well hopefully my documentary, Such Great Heights, will be released in the fall to some festivals and following that it will be out for people to see. After my fight I’m going back to Fort Wayne, IN to do some free seminars and such to help promote the fact that Indiana now has a commission and hopefully we will have a UFC there sometime in 2010.
MMANews.com: How special would that be to you being from Indiana?
Jon Fitch: I think that would be huge. Considering how close Indiapolis is to everything I think we could sell 80,000 tickets. There’s not a lot shit going on in the Midwest so people will make that trip.
MMANews.com: What does the documentary cover>?
Jon Fitch: It covers the training leading up to the GSP fight and a little bit after. It covers our gym at AKA and several of our younger fighters fighting in smaller shows. It’s a great movie for not just the hardcore fan but people just getting into the sport. It’s a positive movie about why we do this and why we love the sport.
MMANews.com: How important is it to you to be finding on UFC 100?
Jon Fitch: It’s a big deal man. Even just for sponsorship because it’s such a big event so you can make more money. Even if you are a little bit of an MMA fan you are probably going to make an effort to watch UFC 100.
MMANews.com: Have you watched the UFC since back in the early days?
Jon Fitch: I watched some of the early ones but once they got taken off PPV we couldn’t really follow it.
MMANews.com: Everyone suffered at that point.
Jon Fitch: Yeah, so when I got to college Tom Erikson was one of the wrestling coaches and I started watching a lot of Pride. He would go to the store and buy the DVD’s and such. When I first started thinking about fighting I started following the UFC again.
MMANews.com: Did you ever see yourself getting to fight on this card?
Jon Fitch: I didn’t really think I’d fight at UFC 100. When I got into this I thought I would be fighting at 205lbs. Then the UFC started taking off. All the best welterweights in the world are in the UFC and I wanted to be part of that. The 170lb, I believe, is the most complete weight in the world in the UFC.
MMANews.com: It’s been full of the top talent for years now.
Jon Fitch: Exactly, other divisions have a lot of great fighters but a lot of the top are spread out all over the world.
MMANews.com: After the GSP loss was it important for you to come back strong against Akihiro Gono At UFC 94?
Jon Fitch: Yeah it was very important to come back and come back strong and use a lot of the new skills I was developing. I didn’t have a chance to get a super flashy win because Gono is a survivor man and he’s hard to finish.
MMANews.com: One thing I’d like to ask you since you mentioned Pride, what are your thoughts on the rules that were used there and do you feel they would work in North America.
Jon Fitch: I’d like to see a mixture of the rules. I’d like to keep the elbows but I’d like to add the knees on the ground and the soccer kicks and such. It’s more true to a real fight. I’d like to combine the rules. You would also see the ground game a lot more because I feel they respected the Jiu-Jitsu game a lot more.
MMANews.com: What about something like the yellow card system?
Jon Fitch: I think that’s a great possibility to. If you are closed guard on bottom and not doing anything I could see it working, same thing with a dominant top position. I feel that would work better instead of standing guys up.
MMANews.com: Do you feel there is a problem with reffing and judging in MMA today?
Jon Fitch: I think, judging has always been an issue because we don’t have fighters progressing into the judging rank, same with the refs. They need more certification and training. I’m not even sure what it takes to be an MMA referee.
MMANews.com: I believe Big John McCarthy has a course for MMA refs.
Jon Fitch: That’s great because he really is the best but I don’t think something like that is mandatory.
MMANews.com: No it’s voluntary.
Jon Fitch: I think we need the commission to enforce things like that. Have a school or certification training.
MMANews.com: With the sport being young do you feel the refs kind of get comfortable in their niche and don’t see things develop?
Jon Fitch: Yeah, a lot of these guys haven’t been around fights or been in fights. It’s hard for them to make these close calls.
MMANews.com: Anyone in particular you don’t like being in the cage with?
Jon Fitch: No I haven’t had any problems with anyone personally. Before the fights they talk with us and we like to let them know our styles and give them a heads up on what might happen and what to watch out for. Like, I’m notorious for getting out of chokes so I let them know I’m not going to tap to a choke and unless I’m completely limp let the fight go. So when they hear that they know not to call it early. Other things like if you are on the back and you hold your opponent up and knee him in the body, we let them know that because from certain angles that might look like you are kneeing him in the head. If he doesn’t have pre warning it could end up with the fight getting called because he was at a bad angle.
MMANews.com: It’s a big summer for fight, any in particular you are looking forward to?
Jon Fitch: The Fedor and Barnett fight is one that should be very interesting.
MMANews.com: I like to think of that as the last great Pride fight.
Jon Fitch: Yeah. I don’t know who else is left for him. He is running out of options outside of the UFC. He needs to get some kind of deal going to get him in the UFC.
MMANews.com: Do you see the UFC bending to bring Fedor in?
Jon Fitch: I don’t know, probably not. They need to and I wish they would but probably not. You never know about the business ends though. You don’t know what Fedor’s people are asking for, so who knows.
MMANews.com: Two sides to every story I guess.
Jon Fitch: That’s it right there. Before I got into the sport I never would have thought there would have been as much business to it. I figured it would just be, put two guys in there and let them fight.
MMANews.com: Do you feel the business aspect came into play more after the sport took off following the first season of TUF?
Jon Fitch: It’s always been there but there is more money involved so there are better businessmen involved. Now it’s more professional and the guys doing business are business school graduates and they transfer over to the sport.
MMANews.com: Like they know business but not necessarily the fight game.
Jon Fitch: Yup. One day they just were thinking they’d like to get into this sport.
MMANews.com: Ok, well I always appreciate when you grant me an interview and I look forward to your fight this weekend. Good luck.
Jon Fitch: Anytime man. Thanks