Since being on the wrong end of a dominating performance by Georges St. Pierre in his only career title fight in August 2008 at UFC 87, Jon Fitch has been trying to find the quickest route back.
He bounced back with unanimous decision victories over Akihiro Gono at UFC 94 and Paulo Thiago at UFC 100. He will have to continue to his winning streak to fight his way to the top once again in a division stocked full of talent.
Fitch was supposed to fight Ricardo Almeida at UFC 106 next; however, Almeida had to pull out with an injury. Then he was tabbed to fight Thiago Alves at UFC 107, but Alves, too, pulled out with an injury. The third time was the charm as Mike Pierce is now scheduled to be his UFC 107 opponent on Dec. 12 in Memphis, Tennessee.
A loss to the relative unknown Pierce could be detrimental to his championship aspirations. Conversely, a win would push him up another rung on the welterweight ladder.
Fitch took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss Pierce, Dan Hardy’s chances against Georges St. Pierre, the likelihood of still fighting Thiago Alves someday, Josh Koscheck’s antics, and a potential rematch with GSP.
Check it out:
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I understand you got engaged recently. When is the big day going to be and how do you find time to do any wedding planning?
Jon Fitch: It will be next September and fortunately my fiancé is doing the bulk of the planning.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I know you are a big Indianapolis Colts fan. They keep finding ways to win games. Give me a realistic prediction for how they will end up this season.
Jon Fitch: I don’t know man. Peyton Manning is just amazing. It’s not like he has a bunch of all-stars surrounding him. He does the homework to make all those other guys all-stars. As long as he stays healthy I think a Super Bowl is definitely within reach.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You were in Las Vegas recently for UFC 106 to support your teammate Josh Koscheck. What did you think of his performance against Anthony Johnson?
Jon Fitch: He did excellent. It was a little sticky with the eye pokes in there. He fought well and fought smart. He did what we thought he was going to be able to do and put Anthony away.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): A lot of fans and even some media folks genuinely dislike Koscheck. I find myself pretty amused with the stuff he says and does whether it’s calling out Matt Hughes or Dan Hardy or simply talking junk to strangers. What do you make of Koscheck’s whole "act," for lack of a better word?
Jon Fitch: He just a gamer. He’s having fun out there. I still think people have a stick up their butt about him putting the hose on Chris Leben. I don’t know. I don’t really get why people dislike him. I love the guy. I think he’s hilarious. He’s just having fun with his job.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Dan Hardy is apparently getting the next shot against George St. Pierre. Your thoughts on how that fight plays out?
Jon Fitch: Dan Hardy hasn’t really fought anybody with any wrestling ability at all so it will be interesting to see him try to deal with GSP’s takedowns. He’s a good fighter and a good kid, but I don’t really feel he’s prepared to fight anybody on GSP’s level right now.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You guys have quite a well-oiled machine going at AKA. Some of the best fighters in the world train there. I saw Takanori Gomi recently came by to train as well. Do you ever think to yourself, "Wow, these guys are coming in from all over the place and want to train here alongside me at the gym?" That has to make you feel pretty good, right?
Jon Fitch: Yeah, it is pretty awesome. It says a lot for the attitude that we have at our gym. We’re very open to train with other people. We get a lot of great guys from all over the country and all over the world who want to stop in and train and check things out.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I want to go back to your last fight at UFC 100 against Paulo Thiago. It was a bit unusual in that you fought after the main event between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir. How caught off guard were you when they told you that would be the case?
Jon Fitch: It did throw me off a little bit. I shouldn’t have let it bother me. I think it did have a little bit of an effect on me and my performance. I think the slow start in the first round was a big indicator of me being thrown off by it. It wasn’t just that they moved it to the end, but there was no real warning. I was getting ready to walk out of the dressing room for my fight and they said, "No, no, no. We’re doing GSP/Thiago." Then they said to be ready to go next. I then prepared mentally and physically to get warm to go after their fight which was 25 minutes later. Then I’m getting ready to go out again and they say, "No, no, no. We’re going with the main event. You are going last." It was kind of hard to get warmed up and mentally ready to go and then right as you are about ready to walk out for your fight they tell you no. It is a part of being the swing bout but it was the first time that it actually happened. It did trip me mentally. If I would have fought more composed I think I could have finished the fight.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I have to let you know about a concept I’ve come up with. First of all, have you seen the movie Kingpin with Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray?
Jon Fitch: Yes.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Okay, well I think that "Fitched" is the new "Munsoned." For example, if you fight after the main event you are getting Fitched. If you get put on an undercard after fighting for a title in your previous fight you are getting Fitched. If your opponent drops out with an injury you are getting Fitched, and so on. Do I have permission to take this mainstream?
Jon Fitch: (laughs) Sure man. That’s actually pretty funny.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Mike Pierce is your third opponent you’ve been paired up against since your UFC 100 fight after Ricardo Almeida and Thiago Alves both pulled out with injuries. What have you learned about Pierce watching tape on him?
Jon Fitch: He’s a strong wrestler. He’s got good control on the ground. He’s got some pretty heavy hands. He’s not the greatest boxer out there but he does throw hard. He has a big right hand and he uses his jab pretty decently.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Is this the longest training camp you have ever had preparing for a fight?
Jon Fitch: Other than the GSP fight it is pretty much the longest training camp I’ve had. It is going to end up being 13 weeks or something like that.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Is that the reason why you decided to take the Pierce fight instead of waiting for Alves? Was it was getting to the point where you just needed to take a fight?
Jon Fitch: I’m a fighter. I want to fight. I don’t like the idea of fighting a couple times a year. If I had it my way I would fight four times a year easily. They have so many guys and only so many cards. Then you have injuries and stuff that screw things up. I’m not sitting around and waiting for a fight. For the Chris Wilson fight I already had a title shot. I didn’t have to fight Chris Wilson. I didn’t have to beat Chris Wilson, but I am a fighter and I wanted to fight.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Some media and fans see the name Mike Pierce and they immediately expect you to run right through him because they do not really know much about him. There seems to be a lot of potential downside to this fight and not any real upside. Would you agree with statement?
Jon Fitch: I don’t worry about that. I just want to fight. He’s a tough guy. He beat Brock Larson. Joe Silva sees he’s a tough opponent, so I want to fight him. I’ll treat him just like I was fighting for the title. I’m not picking and choosing guys like a lot of other guys in my weight class are saying they want bigger names. I’m here to fight. I’ll fight anybody, any day, wherever.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Would you be open to still fighting Thiago Alves if you get past Mike Pierce?
Jon Fitch: There’s a good probability that the fight will happen next if he’s healthy. It depends what the UFC wants to do but I’ve never said no to a fight. I’ve never waited around and asked for a fight. The only fight I’ve ever asked for was a title shot. And after every win I’m still asking for that title shot.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): If someday you get the opportunity to face Georges St. Pierre again how would you approach him differently next time?
Jon Fitch: I have a little bit of a different strategy. I’m a different fighter. I’ve sealed up a lot of the holes in my game. I’ve done a lot of work in order to become a better athlete. I’ve gotten a lot faster with my agility and my speed. Everything is on a new level. I’m not who I was when I fought him.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I’ve heard you say that in a few interviews since the GSP fight. That you needed to become a "better athlete." How do you go about accomplishing that? Does that mean you have been spending a lot of extra time with your strength and conditioning coach?
Jon Fitch: Yeah, I wasn’t even seeing a strength and conditioning coach before. Strength and conditioning really isn’t really the proper term for it. It’s more "speed and agility" coach. I’m not lifting heavy weights. I’m not doing crazy cardio with him. I’m retraining my neurons to fire correctly. You don’t really think that you need to learn how to jump correctly or how to cut and pivot or change direction, but you do. It’s not a natural thing. You are not born to react. I’ve gone to great lengths to try to help increase my foot speed, hand speed, my agility, and all of those movements together.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Anything you would like to pass along to your fans out there or any sponsors you would like to thank?
Jon Fitch: Check me out on Facebook and on Twitter @FitchFighter. You can also learn how to fight like me at MMAinstructional.com.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Before we go I also wanted to ask you about your documentary film where the crew followed you around before, during, and after your UFC 87 fight we talked about against GSP. What stage of the process are you currently in with that project?
Jon Fitch: We are waiting approval from Dana White. That is where we are at.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Will it be a DVD release?
Jon Fitch: The original idea was to get a theatrical release. The next stage was to go HBO or Showtime or something like that. Right now we are just waiting. Dana is a busy guy so we have to wait for him to actually have some time to sit down and watch it and approve the footage.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Hopefully that works out for you and thank you for the time today. We always appreciate it Jon. Best of luck at UFC 107 as well.
Jon Fitch: Alright, thanks Derek.
Derek Bolender is a contributor to MMAmania.com, CBSSports.com, FoxSports.com, and BleacherReport.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DerekMMAwriter and Facebook.com/Derek.Bolender.