"The economy itself is slow," Fitch told MMAjunkie.com Radio (MMAjunkie.com Radio | MMAjunkie.com
). "It's a lot harder to make money outside the UFC now, as far as sponsors and stuff go. The sponsors have kinda dried up. The appearances have almost dried up."
Personal appearances, training seminars and various hosting duties used to be a surefire way for big-name fighters to pad their wallets. But with the economy still in the tank and MMA perhaps reaching a saturation point this year, the opportunities aren't there. And fighters such as Fitch don't want to start slashing costs.
"You don't want to start doing appearances for like $500, and then everyone hears that, and they never offer you anything higher than that even if the economy comes back," he said.
For now, Fitch (23-4-1 MMA, 13-2-1 UFC) is focused on Saturday's UFC 153 fight with fellow welterweight Erick Silva (14-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC), which is part of the pay-per-view main card from HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro. It's Fitch's first appearance since a February 2011 draw with B.J. Penn and a subsequent knockout loss to Johny Hendricks this past December. Before the winless appearances, Fitch was on a 21-1 run, and the lone defeat came in a title fight with champ Georges St-Pierre.
Fitch, the captain of the famed American Kickboxing Academy team in California, was married a few years ago and now has a kid. But living in California isn't cheap, especially with a young family.
Fitch said he's "very careful with my money," but he also has the strain of two mortgages. He bought a condo before the real-estate market got real bad, and the property is steadily losing value, and he also bought a larger house for his family after he got married.
In fact, he said it's a big reason he hasn't traveled down to Fresno to train with friend and former AKA teammate Josh Koscheck. When Koscheck split from the camp, it admittedly put a small strain on their friendship (one the recent "Fight Factory" TV series focused on).
Fitch had still hoped to train with his friend, but right now, he said it's just not feasible. Not for this camp, anyway.
"It's just not economical for me right now," he said. "I just don't have the money or the time to travel down there. I have a son now. It's too hard for me to travel down there and stay and train. It's been limited contact. The last time I got to work with [Koscheck] was the one time they filmed on the show."
So back to full health, the former Purdue University wrestler hopes to fight more frequently. He sometimes wonders why it's such a struggle even when fighters are healthy.
"I would love for us to be able to fight three times a year," he said. "I think that's more than realistic. ... But we're pretty lucky to get three in a year. If you get three, that's ideal. But when you get one or two, it can be difficult. If I still lived in Indiana, it wouldn't be such as much an issue, but I live in California, and it's expensive. Even the cost of food at the store is more expensive."
And as he mentioned earlier, outside-the-cage opportunities aren't just as lucrative as they were during the initial MMA boon of four or five years ago, and sponsors are stingier with their money.
So right now, there's really just one way to make money.
"If you're not fighting, you're not getting paid," he said. "It's not a comment in any way to pay scales or anything. It's just a simple fact: If you don't fight, you don't get paid."