By Chris Howie
January 20th, 2009
After riding an eight fight UFC win streak into a title shot against Georges St. Pierre only to lose following a five round fight that would see him walk away battered and bruised, Jon Fitch realized things needed to change in his training to get to that next level, the level of a champion.
Refocused and ready to come back as strong as ever, Fitch would add new aspects to his training to make him an all around better athlete and help him get back in line for a shot at the UFC Welterweight title and the first road block on the path to the title comes in the form of Akihiro Gono.
Fitch will fight Gono on the under card of UFC 94 which may come as a shock to some considering the consensus number two welterweight in the world just fought in the main event for a title shot but as Fitch explains in this MMANews.com exclusive, that’s the farthest thing from his mind.
Chris Howie With MMANews.com: How has your training been going since the GSP fight and leading into this fight with Gono?
Jon Fitch: It’s been going really well. I’ve been doing some things different this training camp while trying to become a better athlete like bringing in a strength and conditioning coach and that has been going great.
MMANews.com: How are you feeling going into the fight?
Jon Fitch: I’m very confident. My conditioning is good and my body feels good. I have a whole new bag of tricks from working out in Thailand and my grappling and wrestling are on a whole new level right now.
MMANews.com: How was training in Thailand for you?
Jon Fitch: It was a great experience man. It’s really nice to just isolate yourself and only focus on that one thing. Pretty much all you could do all day and everyday was focus on that one aspect of training.
MMANews.com: What differences did you notice between training is the USA and Thailand?
Jon Fitch: The heat for one. The humidity and heat made me extremely flexible. It was almost to the point where I could do the splits because the heat kept you so loose. The Thai’s are harder too, man. They are just hard people. They won’t use mouth pieces or shin guards so that’s a whole lot different perspective than what you see here.
MMANews.com: They train more stiff?
Jon Fitch: It’s definitely tougher. It’s just a not a big deal for them to play around kick sparring without shin guards and going full force. They don’t think anything of it.
MMANews.com: How important can a trip like this one be in furthering your training, and can it make a big different in that one aspect of your game?
Jon Fitch: Absolutely. I think one of the best things you can do for your training in a discipline is immerse yourself one-hundred percent into that one discipline as much as you can. Whether it is boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, or jiu-jitsu, if you can completely focus on that one element for a while, it will really help.
MMANews.com: What else have you worked on since your last fight in August?
Jon Fitch: Getting back to blending all my skills together and being a true mixed martial artist. I find now [that] people are starting to get away from the blending of the disciplines, and are just trying to stand or wrestle. It’s kind of backwards because it should be evolving.
MMANews.com: Kind of like going back to the old days; only that one aspect honed for MMA?
Jon Fitch: Yeah, a little bit. You’ll see wrestlers fight each other but they will stand up the whole time. You won’t see anyone force the clinch or take the shot to mix it up a bit. It’s not a kickboxing fight, so, why are you just kickboxing? It’s almost like a regression.
MMANews.com: How has your focus changed since the fight with St. Pierre?
Jon Fitch: I just want to become a better athlete. I’m doing things differently in my life as a personal athlete. There have always been things like lifting and technical strength, but I haven’t been doing stuff like I am now… like agility training and such.
MMANews.com: What lessons do you walk away with after getting a shot at the title and losing a five round fight?
Jon Fitch: A lot of it was the mentality and focus in the fight. I was looking at the wrong things. Like, I was just looking for a knock out against GSP instead of slowly and progressively slowing him down and causing damage the way I normally do. I don’t think I was in my normal mindset in that fight. I definitely think I learned to relax a little more after being forced to relax with the added pressure that comes along with training for a title fight. I feel much more relaxed now.
MMANews.com: After the fight, St. Pierre talked to you about how the fight would be a learning experience and just make you a better fighter in the long run. Do you look back and agree with his advice to you?
Jon Fitch: Yeah, honestly. The holes in my game needed to be exposed for me to see them clearly. I knew some things were there but I didn’t realize how big they were until they were exposed like the athleticism. I realized that just having good technique and being a technician just isn’t enough. You need agility and speed so I had to go back and retrain my body to regain those things and to be more flexible and fit.
MMANews.com: What do you feel it would take to get back into title contention?
Jon Fitch: I have no idea. I’m just going to take it one fight at a time. Gono is on the horizon right now, so I am going to deal with him and when that fight is over with we will worry about what is next.
MMANews.com: Who do you see as the top five fighters in your division right now?
Jon Fitch: The division is just stacked. We have pretty much everyone that are [the] top dogs at 170lbs in the UFC. It’s a tough call. GSP is on top and then I still see myself as number two. Thiago (Silva) is right there because he has made huge improvements. Josh Koscheck and Mike Swick are right there. Jake Shields is rumored to be possibly joining the UFC. It’s tough, man. There are a lot of great fighters at this weight class.
MMANews.com: Shields has been adamant about the fact he wants to fight in the UFC and has stated on more than one occasion that he wants a fight with St. Pierre and yourself. What are your thoughts on a fight with Jake Shields?
Jon Fitch: He’s a tough guy, man. He belongs in the UFC. He needs to get here and mix it up with everybody and see where he goes. He deserves it. I trained with him for a while and for my fight with GSP, and he’s tough man.
MMANews.com: Could Koscheck and Swick moving up the ladder at 170lbs pose problems for you guys considering you are all training out of the American Kickboxing Academy?
Jon Fitch: You know we don’t really think about it. We don’t really focus on it or feel that it would happen. It’s not something worth breaking up a team over unless someone is planning on leaving which I don’t believe will happen. I just don’t see those fights happening, but we all just take it one fight at a time but nothing is on the horizon and we don’t really think about it.
MMANews.com: Let’s jump back to Gono for a few minutes, what are your thoughts on him such as strengths and weaknesses?
Jon Fitch: He’s a very seasoned veteran man. He’s a slick fighter and he knows his way around a fight. He’s been fighting for like 15 years I think. So that is ridiculous. He has had a ton of fights and has only lost a handful of them and has only been finished four times in his career. To be finished four times in 15 years is super impressive. He’s got good leg kicks and kick defense and good wrestling even. His ground game is kind of under rated because he is a good grappler as well. So, he is going to be a tough opponent.
MMANews.com: How do you see this fight going?
Jon Fitch: I don’t really try to predict the fight going any way but I’ll take it where it needs to go. I like to feel things out, you know? Sometimes fights need to go to the ground and sometimes they need to stay on the feet. So, where ever it needs to be, I will take it.
MMANews.com: Considering you were in the main event of your last fight, fighting for a title, what are your thoughts on being dropped to the under card of the show?
Jon Fitch: You know I’m not going to let anything outside of the fight it’s self worry me. I’m there to fight Gono whether it is the main event of the card or the first fight of the night, and whether it is a sold out venue to just ten people in the stands it really doesn’t matter to me. All that other stuff is just outside crap and I am just focused on the fight it’s self and beating Gono and that is all that matters.
MMANews.com: When you get to sit down and watch tapes of fights, who are some of your favorites to watch?
Jon Fitch: I don’t really sit down and watch a lot of MMA because I’d rather watch Judo or Jiu-Jitsu or high level boxing and kickboxing because those guys are masters of that one discipline and that is where I’ll pick up those subtle techniques that you don’t pick up on an MMA fight.
MMANews.com: Have you had a chance to watch any of the recent fights?
Jon Fitch: No man, I haven’t really had a chance to do much lately because I’ve been so focused on training. I haven’t really had a chance to be on the internet much lately either. [laughs]. I did see the Nogueira and Mir fight, and it was sad to see Nog lose but there are a lot of guys fighting now that I don’t even know their names.
MMANews.com: You’ve gone to Thailand to train kickboxing, would you ever consider making trips to Brazil to focus on Jiu-Jitsu training and such?
Jon Fitch: Oh yeah, for sure, but I plan to make one of those trips in the future. Hopefully I’ll get to go down in the next few months and visit my friend, Tony Eduardo.
MMANews.com: You had a chance to appear on an episode of Mythbuster’s a few months back on the Discovery Channel. What was that like for you?
Jon Fitch: That was so cool because I’m a big fan of the show, but I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see them blow anything up.
MMANews.com: Do you have plans to make more appearances like that in the future?
Jon Fitch: Nothing planned right now, but I am definitely open to that sort of thing for sure. We’ll see what my manager comes up with and stuff and take it from there.
MMANews.com: Do you have anything else coming up or any sponsors you like to mention?
Jon Fitch: Nothing really but check me out at Fitchfighter.com and on myspace and also check out MMAInstructional.com where you can check out guys like myself, Spencer Fisher, Frankie Edgar, and Dave and Dan Camarillo. We all have lessons that are five to ten minutes long, and you can buy credits and put together your own lessons. So, if you are restricted from instructors you can go online and find techniques from some of the best guys in the business.
MMANews.com: Ok Jon, good luck at UFC 94 against Gono, and I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today.
Jon Fitch: No problem, thank you.