Maybe I'm the only one, but after the decision was announced in the main event of the UFC 127 clash between Jon Fitch and BJ Penn as a majority draw, I felt bad for the former and sorry for the latter.
The UFC holds a roster of over 200 fighters with a wide array of different personalities and the strengths and weaknesses that go along with them. Everyone brings something to the table, whether it be the fact they are good at fight promotion (see Sonnen, Chael), charismatic and endearing to fans (see St. Pierre, Georges) or just possess that IT factor that draws the bees to the honey in droves (see Lesnar, Brock).
And then there are fighters that aren't necessarily flashy but they get the job done and they never seem to complain. They're durable, accessible, accept whatever fight is offered to them and continuously go above and beyond what is asked of them.
I am, of course, talking about Jon Fitch, who once again is the subject of ridicule after his majority draw against BJ Penn last night (Feb. 26, 2011).
And who has he drawn the ire of, once again? None other than his boss, the incomparable Dana White, who said this to ESPN:
"Fitch is one of these guys that goes, 'Oh, I want my respect.' He just fought a 155-pound guy and went to a draw with him and in my opinion, he lost the first two rounds -- and he's crying for a title shot? You've got to get in there and decisively beat people. You have to have fans clamoring for you to fight for the title."
My lack of surprise at said response does nothing to quell my displeasure at his thought process.
I understand a promoter getting behind a certain individual for his ability to sell tickets (Penn) and not exactly rushing to defend a guy that presumably doesn't (Fitch). But does that mean White should be making statements like these? Especially considering the circumstances when all was said and done?
When the fight was over, I didn't see Fitch broken down and dreading the future. I saw a fighter who was ready to dig in and go back to work; a fighter who wanted to fix his mistakes and come back stronger.
He said as much to MMAFighting, and made it clear he would love a rematch with much higher stakes and a couple more rounds to settle things.
"It all depends on the Jake Shields and GSP fight. I would love to get a crack at the winner but they're talking and GSP is talking about moving up and that's something I don't have control over either. If he moves up in weight then I would love to fight BJ again for the belt, why not? If they do do a rematch, why not make it five rounds?"
Compare and contrast that to a bruised and broken BJ Penn, who repeatedly stated he didn't know what his future held but agreed to do a rematch -- kind of.
"I guess, if I do fight again, I should probably rematch Jon Fitch."
It seems odd at the very least, that Dana White would throw his support behind the guy talking about retirement instead of one of his most reliable employees.
Did Jon Fitch go out and definitively win the fight, as "D.W." states is necessary to earn a title shot? Obviously, the answer is no. But did Penn, who is in the midst of identity crisis number six? Nope.
So what would Fitch do if the UFC decided to book him in a fight against someone, not Penn, with no title involved?
"I don't know. I don't know what to expect. All I can do is just get back to the gym, work hard and win my next fight."
I will reiterate that I understand the fight game is a business and everyone has to make money. That involves a certain level of ruthlessness by the decision-makers that most of us cannot begin to fathom.
I completely understand that's why Fitch has been treated so poorly and spoken of with such disdain by his own employers.
But when you're a guy in Dana White's position, with as much influence as he has, doesn't that mean a few kind words to the media may help change public perception?
Wouldn't just a hint of support for one of his most loyal fighters go a long way in getting him over with the audience at large?
The answer is yes. At some point, loyalty and hard work should be rewarded. It's times like these that a guy like Fitch deserves better than what he is getting.
Let's give the guy his due. After all, he's only one of the best fighters in the world.