When Jon Fitch steps into the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) Decagon this Saturday night (Oct. 26, 2013) against Marcelo Alfaya in Coral Gables, Florida, he will be staring at a possible third-straight loss. The veteran welterweight suffered one of the worst one-sided upsets in recent memory at the hands of Josh Burkman at WSOF 3; a fight that was supposed to be his coming out party in his new MMA home.
Now, Fitch finds himself on the outside of the WSOF welterweight title fight that most experts expected him to be in. He's calling it "do or die," and he's been there before.
"There's always pressure, but I think there is a little extra added pressure to perform coming off two losses," Fitch said, as a guest on Darce Side Radio recently. "I've never had two losses before in my career," he continued.
"It's kind of a good thing because I have historically done pretty well when my back has been up against the wall. A perfect example is the Erik Silva fight. That was a do-or-die moment for me and I performed well that night, so I'm hoping we will get another one of those on Saturday."
Alfaya is relatively unknown, and has only fought three times in the last four years. Fitch says, "It's going to be a good challenge. I'm used to fighting tough guys that people don't really know their names. So it's going to be another one of those... A real barnburner, but a lot of people are like ‘who is this guy that he's fighting.' Watching what he does, he's a solid guy and a solid, tough fighter."
Just over a year has passed since Fitch earned a "Fight of the Night" victory over Silva at UFC 153 and the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) fighter has had a full plate aside from his unceremonious release from UFC. He was also adjusting to life as a first-time father, to which he says, "I've gotten used to the new role over the last six months or so."
Fitch admitted that in the last two years he has "been fairly frustrated with the sport of MMA too," he continued. "I felt like no matter what I did or how hard I trained, it didn't matter. I could only go so far because I wasn't allowed to achieve anything higher than what I had."
Was he referring to feeling like the UFC brass didn't want him to get a rematch with current welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre?
"Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I felt like it. I felt like I had a glass ceiling on both ends," Fitch confesses candidly. "No matter what I did, I wasn't going to be allowed to be successful."
After to losing to St-Pierre the first time at UFC 87, Fitch went on a 5-0-1 streak, so his argument for not getting a title shot at the time is definitely a valid one. That being said, it's not the UFC's fault that he got knocked out by Johny Hendricks and turned in a poor performance against Demian Maia. Had he won those two fights, UFC would've most likely been left with no choice but to award him a rematch.
Does going on another win streak and getting back to UFC ever cross his mind?
"I haven't really thought about it. I've been focusing on what I'm doing out here on my own. I'm focusing on trying to help a great organization with World Series. So far it seems that they are very fighter friendly. I like what they are doing."
"They are putting good shows together and they have a great platform with NBC Sports Network. I think it's very smart. I think at some point when they have titles in every weight class, they might even start doing one, maybe possibly two pay-per-views a year."
Those good sentiments and warm feelings are what made the loss to Josh Burkman in his debut for the promotion at WSOF 3, tougher than it already was. A desire to come out and make a big splash, turned into a 41-second loss by a guillotine choke.
Fitch felt he owed the promotion more than that.
"There was a lot of attention on that fight, especially because of the release from the UFC and all the talk and stuff that happened from that," he explained. "So yeah, I kind of felt like I needed to go out and perform and do an awesome job and give some real legitimacy to World Series and give some attention and shine some light on them. With losing, I felt like I let them down in that sense."
"Now some time has passed, and I kind of actually see that loss was a good thing for the organization, because it legitimized that weight class and Josh Burkman as a serious contender and a top guy, a top 15, top-10 welterweight."
"Looking back and having hindsight, you can see now there is another big name in the organization. If I would've beat him then my next fight would've been for a title against who? Someone who Josh Burkman has already defeated? Looking back now things kind of might've worked out better that Josh did beat me that night. I think a rematch between us for the third and final fight would be huge for the organization and the sport of MMA itself."
The 35-year-old fighter was told of Burkman's recent comments on Darce Side Radio on asking for a rematch with Fitch, should he defeat Carl for the inaugural WSOF welterweight title.
"That's great. I have nothing but respect for him," Fitch said. "He's come a long way as a fighter and a person. A lot has happened between now and the last time we fought. We're both marital artists and we're both out there to prove that our games are the best in this game. If we both go out there and do our jobs done on Saturday and kick some butt, it will be and easy no-brainer to set that up."
For more on this weekend's WSOF 6 event click here.