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UFC 68: Exclusive interview with Jon Fitch

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jon fitch ufc fighter interview

UFC welterweight contender Jon Fitch dreams of beatdowns -- literally.

He doesn't have a catchy nickname or make flashy entrances.

Fitch is all business ... a true fighters fighter.

The former University of Purdue wrestling standout is now 4-0 in the Octagon and is among the Top 10 170-pound fighters in the world.

In less than two weeks, Fitch will face Luigi Fioravanti at UFC 68 on March 3 in Columbus, Ohio.

We recently caught up with Fitch to discuss the upcoming fight, his injury, training, position in the stacked welterweight division, a future showdown with Karo Parisyan and his favorite cartoons ... and much more.

The interview is long. But, I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Fitch is a true character and a fighter to look out for in 2007.

The UFC can't hide him forever. And, I don't know the reason it has up until this point. What's up Jon, let's start out with the nose that was broken against Hironaka at UFC 64. Is it all healed and are you cleared to fight at UFC 68?

Jon Fitch: The nose is good. I'll visit with an ENT guy this upcoming Tuesday (February 20) for clearance to get licensed for my next fight. So you will get cleared?

Jon Fitch: Yeah, I've been overly protective with it in training. It's good. I didn't want any problems getting cleared so there won't be any problems. There wasn't surgery correct, it wasn't like a Rich Franklin break?

Jon Fitch: Nah, it was just a fracture. It didn't block anything or wasn't bad enough that it needed to be reset. In fact, he [Hironaka] kind of helped me out. I had only about 75 percent of full breathing out of my left nostril since the last time I broke my nose. After he broke it, the nose popped over so it's back up to about 90 percent or something. Just want to touch on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season one letdown for all the fans out there who may not know that you were actually in the airport — bags in hand — when the UFC called to tell you to go home. What was that like?

Jon Fitch: It was fucking embarrassing. I just got telling everyone — friends, family, fans — that I was on my way to shoot a reality television show for the UFC. Then, they call me up and cut me. And it wasn't even like I was just cut from the show. I thought at least I'd have a chance to fight in the UFC. And, that just didn't happen until I won a few more fights. Do you know who took your spot or any other details about the decision-making process now that you are an established UFC welterweight contender?

Jon Fitch: I have no idea what any of it was about. I'm pretty sure I wasn't replaced, but they cut the numbers back on the amount of guys on the show. After that experience, and you make it to the UFC, your first three fights — all wins — aren't aired until the fourth bout with Hironaka at UFC 64. Finally, you've made the big show. Then, the upcoming fight with Luigi Fioravanti at UFC 68 is scheduled and you find out that it's stuck on the undercard as a potential dark match. Are you thinking, "Here we go again," or are you cool with the decision?

Jon Fitch: Right now, I don't really care. Whatever. It's not my problem. I just have to keep winning fights. And if I do that, I'll eventually set myself up for a title shot. The UFC is going to have a big problem if that happens because fans aren't gonna know who the hell I am. They are going to have to figure out how to market me. The thing that bothers me most is it makes it difficult for me to get fights because the guys ranked above me don't want to fight me because they don't want to lose to a "no-name." Nobody really wants to take a really tough fight with somebody who everyone expects you to roll over. That's kind of the situation you were in with Hironaka, right?

Jon Fitch: Yeah, Hironaka is an animal and no one knows who he is. The fans who know me expected me to kill the guy. I am more well-known than him, at least here in the UFC. But, he's a tough a guy and most people expected me to go out there and smash him. If I didn't dominate the fight than fans would think less of me. That's just how most casual fans in the sport react.

So someone like Matt Hughes, Karo Parisyan, Diego Sanchez — all these guys are pretty high profile. You throw them against me and no one knows who I am and they are expected to walk all over me because they have never heard of me. If that doesn't happen then these guys might lose fans. Fans have this "movie image" in their heads of what a fighter is and they think that their favorite fighter is some indestructible, undefeated guy. It's more like a baseball team who plays 162 games in a season. They don't win all those games. Some people don't understand that there are a lot of great fighters out there who lose — there are so many ways to lose in MMA on any given night. What makes fighters great is when they lose and comeback. Right, I think Matt Hughes said one time that if you haven't lost then you haven't been fighting the right guys ... or something like that.

Jon Fitch: Exactly. Once you heard the news that the fight wasn't going to be aired, you sent around a rather harmless MySpace bulletin telling your fans to contact the UFC to voice their displeasure with the decision. Is it true Joe Silva asked you to quell the rebellion because so many fans did just that?

Jon Fitch: Yeah, Joe Silva wasn't too happy. However, I can totally understand where he is coming from. I never intended for hate mail to be sent. I just wanted the UFC to know that I have fans and the fans want to see me fight — that's it. I didn't expect the personal attacks. I hate that negative shit. The last thing I wanted was people calling or emailing Joe Silva and telling him he was a faggot. That just makes us all look bad. I appreciate all the support, but there's just no room for that stuff. I was just thinking people would write, "Jon Fitch is one of my favorite fighters, I wish you would show him." That's all I was really looking for, but some people took it a little too far. So, Joe Silva actually called you about the situation?

Jon Fitch: He called my manager Bob Cook and asked to have me take the MySpace bulletin down. The main objective of that bulletin, keep in mind, was to let people know that I wasn't going to make it on the pay-per-view. I don't want my fans getting all pumped to see me fight, spending money, only to be let down. Plus, my fans spend a lot of time just trying to watch my fights — it's not that easy. I don't want people who only want to see me fight spend the $40 or whatever, sit there for hours and not see the fight they want to see. I just didn't want fans to get there hopes up and plan a whole party around watching me fight because that may not happen. I was just looking out for my fans and family. What do you think about Rashad Evans emphatically announcing that he will never fight friend and training partner Keith Jardine? You have a similar situation at AKA with friend and welterweight Josh Koscheck. Would you ever fight Koscheck if piss came to squat?

Jon Fitch: That's not just another fighter, it's a teammate. I'll never fight Josh Koscheck. You can't force somebody to do something if they don't want to do it. It actually doesn't make any kind of sense. Why would we want to tear our gym in half to fight each other? We see each other every single day. So, if you had the belt or Koscheck had the belt, neither of you guys would take that fight?

Jon Fitch: No, there's enough guys out there to fight. The belt is one of those thing's but it's not the most important thing. There are always other organizations and other weight classes if that situation ever happened to consider as well. Last year, you mentioned a few times in interviews that you were improving and would feel comfortable fighting anyone at 170 besides Hughes, Georges St. Pierre and BJ Penn. At the time, you said you needed to refine your game a little bit to feel like you are ready for those top-level guys. How do you feel at this moment?

Jon Fitch: Right now I'm ready to fight anybody. I really feel like I can beat anybody that the UFC puts in front of me. My standup has gotten grossly better, I mean, it's pretty ridiculous right now. We have new guys who come into our gym and they think that I'm a kickboxer until they realize it's me. Who are you training with?

Jon Fitch: Mike Swick, Koscheck, Trevor Prangley, Phil Baroni, Paul Buentello — we've got a ton of guys at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields come in all the time, too, so it's pretty crazy the talented training partners who are at our gym. Buentello, is he fighting Kimbo? What's the inside scoop?

Jon Fitch: I don't know if that'll ever happen. Who kicks your ass the most?

Jon Fitch: We kick each others asses pretty much on any given day. That's pretty much the goal of any training session — to make sure each guy gets his ass kicked. If you're not getting your ass kicked on a daily basis then you're not getting any better. If you're a big fish in a small pond, everyday, eventually you're not gonna be able to do shit against anybody. Congrats on recently earning your jiu-jitsu brown belt with Dave Camarillo. How has that process been so far?

Jon Fitch: It's been great. It took me three years and three months. I've put a ton of energy and an insane amount of hours into it. That seems pretty quick, no?

Jon Fitch: Yeah, it's pretty fast. But, I earned it. Do you attribute that to your extensive wrestling background?

Jon Fitch: No, I attribute it to my work ethic and the amount of time I put into it. I've put in about 10 years of time compared to how maybe a normal person trains in less than four. Let's talk about Luigi. What challenges does he pose? He's got some heavy hands and puts guys to sleep. Do you want to stand with this guy or take it right to the ground and beat him up there?

Jon Fitch: Luigi is a brawler. He's not overly technical but he has some nice footwork. I'm impressed with how he cuts angles. He's got a good one-two, moves forward and throws some sick leather. And, he's got a solid chin. He usually draws his opponents into stand up fights to wear them down and eventually knock them out. Luigi trains with American Top Team -- a great camp -- so he's definitely got some good skills on the ground, too. Basically, he's a scrappy guy with some real heavy hands. So are you doing anything different to prepare for this fight?

Jon Fitch: I've been successful thus far with what I've been doing so there's no real reason to change anything. We are making sure that I remember to keep my hands up at all times, that I don't get loose with them during the fight and that I'm throwing crisp combinations. I'm really working on getting more pop on my punches. I'm getting that boxer snap at the end of my punches which is good. Your ground game is better than his without question. So, Ill ask again if you want to take this thing to the floor and put that new brown belt to the test?

Jon Fitch: I'll take the fight wherever it needs to go. I'm comfortable standing up and I've gotten much more technical. I do have a reach on Luigi so there's a good chance I can keep a good distance with my jab. Anything can happen in a fight so I pretty much go into all my fights with a basic plan. If I go in there and things don't go as planned — and they usually don't — I need to be ready for anything.

I'm not one-dimensional. I don't have to run out there and take a guy down as soon as possible. How do you envision this fight unfolding?

Jon Fitch: It's gonna be a good little scrap in the beginning. We'll see what happens from there. I haven't really thought about how it's going to end. I'd like to beat him up with some ground and pound and submit him I guess. That'd be nice. But, I'll take it however I can get it. Just remember, I love to dish out beatdowns. I dream about them ... I really do. I'm not the slickest or smartest fighter around, I just like to get guys into certain positions and pound them. I'll take a series of punches or elbows to the head if it means I can beat a guy a little longer before submitting him. How good is your chin, can you eat a Fioravanti knuckle sandwich or what?

Jon Fitch: I've been hit hard for sure. But, I do a pretty good job of rolling my shoulders and positioning myself so I don't get hit too clean too often. However, I've taken my fair share of shots to the head. You handed Luigi's training partner, Thiago Alves, a signature Fitch beatdown not too long ago. Do you think he has any tips or advice that will give Luigi any kind of edge in this fight?

Jon Fitch: I don't know what they're going to be able to get from that fight. He caught me with a punch as I was throwing a kick — that's about it. Other than that, there wasn't a lot that Alves did that he can use I don't think. Let's pretend for a second that you win. Where does that put you in the welterweight picture? Would you be pissed if Joe Silva called you up and said he has a gatekeeper like Drew Fickett lined up for your next fight? Is it time for you to crack into the next level of talent or what?

Jon Fitch: Silva's having a really tough time finding fighters to take fights with me. A lot of that has to do with the reasons I already mentioned — no one at that level wants to run the risk of losing to a guy who is not that well-known. Basically, these guys don't want to lose to a "no-name" even though you are a name?

Jon Fitch: Yeah, pretty much. And, being in the prelims at UFC 68 doesn't help my case any. Whatever. It'll be a long time before I can even get a title shot with all the match ups and future fights lined up for the next year or so. St. Pierre and Serra have to fight, St. Pierre will rematch Hughes and of course the winner of Koscheck and Sanchez will get in line before me. What about Karo Parisyan?

Jon Fitch: Yeah, I'd love for that to be my next fight. If I can beat Luigi, fighting Karo next would make the most sense. It's the perfect match up and a great way to start building me as a contender. Basically, it would be a very exciting fight. I really want to see it happen. Do you know Karo or have you ever trained with him?

Jon Fitch: I met him a couple of times. He's a tough guy and great fighter. It wouldn't be anything personal. He's got more recognition than me and I want that recognition. There's only so many guys at the top of the totem pole who are available to fight and Karo is one of those guys. Everyone else is tied up. Just want to go back to Koscheck real quick. How fired up is he for his upcoming fight with Sanchez at UFC 69?

Jon Fitch: He's wanted this fight for a long time. He's going to surprise a lot of people with his hands. I honestly don't see how he can lose this fight. I thought he won the first fight, and that was years ago when he was just a wrestler. Have you — or has Koscheck — seen the comment Diego left on Koscheck's MySpace page?

Jon Fitch: No, what are you talking about? (I read him the comment).

Jon Fitch: (Laughs). That's funny as fuck. But, I think he's in for a surprise because Koscheck does have some fuckin' hands. I'll send him a text message when we get off the phone to let him know — he doesn't manage his page on a daily basis. Someone helps him with it. So a year from now, where's Jon Fitch?

Jon Fitch: Hopefully, I'm getting ready for a title fight. All the other match ups that we discussed will all be over and it'll be my time. Who knows. The loser of the Koscheck-Sanchez fight will most likely get the loser of the St. Pierre-Hughes III fight. So, it could be longer. It's a possibility that I might be inline at that time, or I could be way off. It's too hard to predict what will happen. That's fine by me, though. I've had a difficult path my entire fighting career. I've earned every win and have never backed down from a challenge. I figure the longer it takes me to get a title shot, the more beatdowns I can dish out. So, whatever happens, happens. I'm cool with whatever. In the meantime I'll enjoy what I'm doing, make money, and if a title shot comes along that's icing on the cake. Talking about these scenarios and other fighters, is it hard not to look past Luigi?

Jon Fitch: No, not at all. Luigi is a very tough fighter and it's going to be a real tough fight for me. It wouldn't be normal for me to not think ahead. Every fighter does it. I'm trying to position myself in the division and in that process you think of your position. It's natural. I'm very focused on Luigi because I know he's gonna bring it. I've been busting my ass and I'm ready for this fight probably better than any of my others. I treat every fight like it's my last. So, just to confirm, the one guy you want to fight after Luigi — if all goes well — is Karo?

Jon Fitch: If I can dispatch of Luigi fashionably a fight with Karo makes the most sense. The last time we spoke, you had just signed a three-fight deal. If I'm not mistaken, this is the third fight. What is your contract status like right now?

Jon Fitch: This is the last fight and we are currently in negotiations to renew my contract. Is it a longer-term contract, worth more money, or are there any details you can share?

Jon Fitch: I can't talk about that stuff until it's done. All I can say is that I haven't signed anything yet. UFC is where you want to be or do you have designs on other promotions?

Jon Fitch: Unless someone offers me Brandon Vera-type money (1.5 million signing bonus from EliteXC), I'm not going anywhere. That's a shitload of money that can set someone up for life. I've got bills to pay like everyone else. Having said that, I like the situation in the UFC because it is the absolute toughest division in the world at 170. If you wanna fight at 170 in the UFC, it means something. There are no slouches in this weight class, there are no easy fights or pushovers. What about Ross Pointon?

Jon Fitch: Who's that? I've never heard of him. Nevermind. Okay, Jon. I think I'm almost done. Just a few more odds and ends. What happened in the Solomon Hutcherson fight that was ruled a no contest? There's virtually nothing out there that explains what went down.

Jon Fitch: I knew early on that I could beat him. So, I told myself that I wasn't going end the fight early ... I wanted to at least get in a good workout before finishing him or dishing out a beatdown. It turned out to be a big mistake because during the fight he was able to to sweep me to the ground. As I was getting up — I was still on my knees — Hutcherson kicked me in the face, opening up a huge cut on the bridge of my nose. He didn't time it right and it was an illegal kick — kicking a downed opponent. Did it knock you out?

Jon Fitch: No, it basically cut me across the nose — picture a backslash. It was about three inches and real deep. The doctors checked it out and determined I couldn't continue. The referee called it a no contest, but it probably should have been a disqualification. There was some funny business going on between the two promoters of the show. I think it was a compromise to call it a no contest rather than a disqualification. That sucks man.

Jon Fitch: Yeah, but it was the moment in my career where I finally realized that I needed to get out of Indiana and move to California. I wasn't getting any better in Indiana. I told myself that a needed to get somewhere where I can train right. The fight before that I got knocked out by Wilson Gouveia. So, I was like man I gotta wake up and do something. I should have steamrolled through Hutcherson and I didn't. It was a wake up call and a defining moment in my career. It was the final straw. So, in hindsight, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I've been undefeated ever since. And, I owe most of that to my training and training partners at AKA. If I went out smashed him, I might still be out in Indiana and not where I'm at right now. I might be still half-assin' it and fighting at 205. Yeah, you're a big dude for 170. How the hell do you maintain that weight?

Jon Fitch: I walk around at about 190. When I was hurt and couldn't train and my girlfriend was feeding me real good, I got up to about 205. I've been as heavy as 217. And, I used to fight at 184. But, a big reason for that is I used to lift weights and drink a lot of beer— I can put on some serious mass. Now, I don't lift weights anymore and I don't drink as much — I just strength train. I've replaced heavy lifting with technique. I'm still strong as hell for 170.

Don't get me wrong, I can still use some weight training. I saw a few pictures of my chicken legs against Hironaka and couldn't help but chuckle. They looked pretty bad. Who's the toughest fighter you ever went up against?

Jon Fitch: That's a hard question to answer because I always fight tough guys. Brock Larson was strong. But, Hironaka was pretty damn tough. Hitting him was like punching a tree stump. He didn't make a sound throughout the fight no matter how hard I hit him. I have respect for that. The hardest you have ever been hit?

Jon Fitch: Phil Baroni. That fuckin' dude hits like a truck. Him and Trevor Prangley hit so hard it's ridiculous. I know you watch cartoons. What are you into right now?

Jon Fitch: I'm pretty into the Venture Brothers. It's a great cartoon. Aqua Teen Hunger force is good as hell, too. It's about a French fry, a milkshake and a Meatwad or whatever. It's pretty funny, you should check it out sometime. Metapocalypse is a cartoon about some heavy metal musicians — the drummer is called Murder Face. It's fucking hilarious. Man, that's some funny shit. Let's end it on that note. Thanks for all your time. Look forward to hopefully seeing another beatdown on March 3 ... best of luck against Luigi. Any sponsors you want to pimp?

Jon Fitch: Cool man, thanks, it was a good time. Check me out on my Web site or on MySpace. I'd also like mention Toe2Toe and Jigsaw Design.