Earlier today, MMAmania.com got the nod to sit in on the media conference call for UFC 87: "Seek and Destroy." Fielding questions on the call were UFC Welterweight Champion Georges "Rush" St. Pierre and his opponent Jon Fitch, as well as heavyweights Brock Lesnar and Heath "The Texas Crazy Horse" Herring.
The call went pretty much by the book, with the fighter being respectful of their respective opponents. No trash-talking for this UFC event. In fact, GSP and Fitch both commented on that very thing:
"(Fitch) has got a lot of heart. Even if in the build up for this fight there is not trash talk, believe me, August 9 is going to be a great fight."
"It shows you where the sport is going. The top-level guys are professionals and behaving as professionals. The guys who talk trash and spew all that garbage, they don’t last. They do that stuff because they need that to get attention because they suck as fighters."
Fitch indeed lets his actions inside the cage speak for themselves.
Hell, if anyone could benefit from more media exposure (which often comes with talking trash your opponent), it would be Jon Fitch, who isn’t as well known by the average fan as a lot of number one contenders who came before him.
In fact, when asked if he feels he is underappreciated by the average fan, despite being so dominant inside the Octagon, Fitch had this to say:
"Because of the way I came up through the UFC, a lot of people didn’t see a lot of my fights. People develop an attachment to fighters that they see fight live. When they see you in a pay-per-view or they see you in a live event and they watch you fight, they develop a real attachment to you, rather than just seeing some of your fights on the playback, on like UFC Wired or the Unleashed show. So yeah, I think a lot of fans still don’t know who I am, really. They haven’t developed that kind of attachment or an appreciation for me. But it’s not really their fault, I guess, it’s just the way things go. We had a stacked weight division, and I just kinda slipped through the cracks."
Both welterweights commented on the things they’ve learned as a fighter. GSP said that he had learned a lot from his loss to Matt Serra at UFC 69 (his first title defense), and isn’t ready to make the same mistake twice:
"I learned a lot of things. A lot of things happened in my life. I don’t want to make any excuses. That night I got beat by a better man than I am. Now for this fight ... I’m working really hard, making all the sacrifices. I haven’t cut corners. I’m ready to go … Right now I realize what I have. I’m world champion, and I realize. Last time, I didn’t really realize what I had between my hands. Now I know what it is and I don’t want to lose it. I’m going to fight to win, I’m not going to fight not to lose, I’m going to fight to win. I’m going to go for the finish."
Other good quotes from each welterweight followed.
When asked about the role confidence plays as a fighter, Fitch said:
"I think it’s a key factor in any career. For someone to be successful, if you don’t have the confidence in yourself to achieve the things that lay in front of you then you’re always going to be a failure. I think I struggled early in my wrestling career at Purdue because I lacked confidence. But ever since I’ve started fighting, I’ve put myself on the same playing field mentally as all my opponents, and my confidence is through the roof … Just the realization that I’m just as much of an athlete or just as much of a man as anybody else I’m facing."
When asked about B.J. Penn potentially moving up to challenge for the welterweight strap, GSP stayed focused:
"I don’t even think about it. I don’t want to make the same mistake twice. Right now I am going to fight Jon Fitch for my first title defense, and I have the chance to succeed where I failed last time. I see it as a great challenge, not only because I’m fighting who I think is the most dangerous guy that I’ve fought so far, but also because last year … I lost my first title defense, and now I am going to have a chance to redeem myself."
Fitch, comparing his wrestling skills to GSP’s:
"As far as wrestling skills go, we don’t utilize all of wrestling in MMA. I think my wrestling style is more suitable for MMA than a lot of fighters. A lot of fighters take shots from open waters and very easily get stuffed. I hit takedowns from all angles, all directions, and I’m just relentless with what I need to get done. I think Georges is a very explosive style of wrestling, but it’s a fight, it’s not wrestling, so I don’t think it even matters."
On specific problems Fitch brings to the table, GSP said:
"Jon Fitch is like a new breed of mixed martial arts fighters. He’s not like the old school guys. Of course he’s a great wrestler, that’s his first background, but he’s very good standing up and on the ground as well. So he’s bringing a lot more problems on the table than the other guys that I’ve fought in the past. I’m going to have to use a lot more tools than I’ve been using in the past. But I truly believe that fighting wrestlers in my specialty. Those are the type of people that I’m the best to fight. When I fight wrestlers I always do very well. And wrestlers are my favorite guys to fight."
Fitch, on what he has improved since his last fight:
"One of the biggest things is punching power. I’ve been working a lot with Javier Mendez, and that’s kind of his specialty. So I’m hitting at least twice as hard as I used to. Other than that, my cardio is just on another level now. In my first time training for 25 minutes, I wasn’t sure where I could take my body physically. But I’m increasingly surprised with how great of shape I’m in."
When asked about the level of competition Fitch has faced versus the level of completion he has faced, GSP replied:
"I’m more experienced in big fights, but he has fought a lot of very tough competitors. And I truly believe that he’s the toughest guy that I have fought so far. I have been taking my training very seriously. I’ve never been in as good of shape as I am right now. I’ve been training to face an army, not a single guy. Every time I’m training and I do my sparring, I have a fresh guy coming on me all the time. And very top quality guy, not like the karate teacher on the corner of the street. Top MMA fighters, so I’m very well prepared."
When asked how he thinks this fight will be different than that of his training partner, Josh Koscheck, who lost to GSP at UFC 74 one year ago, Fitch didn’t hold any punches. Specifically, Fitch took Kos to task for insisting on training only standup for his fight against GSP — a fight that turned into a solid wrestling match, with "Rush" out-performing the four-time NCAA Division I All-American:
"That’s the thing with Koscheck, he’s really stubborn. And he didn’t want to listen to anybody, and we were telling him to practice his wrestling. He had it in his head that nobody could take him down if he didn’t want ‘em to. Literally I don’t think he drilled a single takedown that entire training camp. He did all standup and very little jiu-jitsu even. I don’t take that approach, I haven’t taken that approach to it. I always train everything, but I’ve also gotten back to wrestling basics again, just to sharpen things up."
GSP, on the difference between fighting to win and fighting not to lose:
"It’s simple. When you fight not to lose, you don’t take chances. You don’t go for the opening, you don’t go all in. When you fight to win, you take that chance. It’s like your mind is free. That’s how I’m going to fight, I’m going to fight to win."
Fitch, on if there is any added pressure for this fight:
"No, man, I don’t worry about pressure. This is a game to me, this is all fun. It’s not like I’m fighting a war or working in a factory or something. This is playtime. I’m living a dream. There is no pressure. Win, lose, draw, it doesn’t matter. I’m having fun."
While the title bout received most of the attention on the conference call, both Lesnar and Herring fielded their share of comments (although if anyone received fewer questions, it was certainly Herring).
Lesnar was asked repeatedly about his UFC debut against Frank Mir — a fight he nearly finished before Mir caught him with a knee bar due to Lesnar making a rookie mistake. Lesnar claims he "wasn’t nervous at all" for his UFC debut, and says he’s learned a lot since his first Octagon fight:
"(I now) understand that I’ve got 15 minutes to try to win a bout. I really rushed that fight, and I made a foolish mistake. I had Frank in a dominant position, and I stood up and fed him a foolish amateur mistake, and it was something that we worked on a million times. Just to be a more controlled fighter and a little more relaxed in there. We’ve been working on that. It has to do with just putting time in the gym, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Just trying to polish every aspect of the fight game and try to better myself everyday."
When Heath was asked how he keeps focused on Brock Lesnar and not on "the reports of you saying that you’re going to get a title shot if you win this fight," Heath took exception:
"I haven’t been saying that I’m going to get a title shot. They said after the last fight we had a title shot, and we didn’t get one. So I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch, for sure. You know, you just gotta concentrate on the task in front of ya, and that’s kinda what I do. If you start getting your hopes up, you just get ‘em dashed. So the best thing to do is to just concentrate on what we got in front of us, and that’s Lesnar, and that’s what we’ll go do on August 9, and afterward we’re worry about how everything else falls into place."
Both heavyweights said that they have been working on every aspect of the fight game — from standup to wrestling to jiu-jitsu. Since bringing in B.J. Penn’s strength and conditioning coach/nutritionist, Tony Aponte, Herring says that he’s actually going to be coming into this fight heavier, but in much better shape.
That might be a good thing. When Lesnar was first signed by the UFC, he reportedly walked around at 295 pounds. Not that Herring is any stranger to fighting big guys. That dude’s fought just about everybody out there, and some of them were a lot bigger than Brock Lesnar.
It should make for a fantastic night of fights!
It all goes down a week from Saturday, August 9, at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. The event also features a lightweight showdown between Kenny Florian and Roger Huerta (who were not on the call) to determine the new number one contender in the division.