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Interview: WSOF 24's Jon Fitch plans to 'bury' Yushin Okami tonight, talks 'corrupt' USADA and more

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The long-time mixed martial arts (MMA) Welterweight veteran spoke with about several hot-button topics, including T.J. Dillashaw's saga with Team Alpha Male and Nick Diaz's ongoing battle with Nevada State Athletic Commission.

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Love him or hate him, Jon Fitch will be back in a World Series of Fighting (WSOF) cage tonight (Oct. 17, 2015) to face Yushin Okami in a Welterweight title eliminator inside Foxwoods Resorts Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.

The former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 170-pound title challenger is one fight removed from a tap against previous titleholder and suspended Rousimar Palhares in Dec. 2014, which saw him escape with his leg intact ... barely.

Fitch has led a busy life since transitioning over to WSOF in March 2013 following a surprising dismissal from UFC. He's moved across the United States twice, moved out of his long-time fight camp American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) and welcomed a second son, Atlas, to the family.

The 37-year-old also has been leading the charge when it comes to an ongoing antitrust lawsuit against his former employers at ZUFFA. While on a recent media tour in New York City, Fitch spoke to about the lawsuit, his new home at One Kick's Gym in "Sin City," T.J. Dillashaw, Nick Diaz and more.

What's new in Jon's world -- how are you staying in shape?

JF: I've mostly been training my guys at One Kick's and chasing my kids around. They've been keeping me in shape. I'm mostly focused on getting myself better and sharing my knowledge with the guys at One Kick's and helping them start or turn their careers into something that's going to get them going throughout the community in MMA.

I moved over there last August. So I've been there for a little over a year. We're loving it. We don't have any family out there. We don't have a lot of support, but after a year they're starting to settle in and really enjoy it.

What attracted you to One Kick's?

JF: I actually went over there because Phil Baroni was training there and he trained with One Kick's way back in the day. I went over there first to start training with Phil. He's a really awesome guy -- a really outstanding coach. A really good stand-up coach. He moves a lot when he holds the mitts for you. He's helped a lot with footwork. It makes a difference when you get older. Some of the holders are smaller and it's a little bit unrealistic when they put pressure on your or try to throw stuff back at you. You're punching down at the mits, as opposed to someone who's up tall or high and they're kicking you. We also have a Muay Thai world champion, Lookchang Sitchang, who's pretty outstanding and is good at holding mitts.

Since you've bounced around and left a prominent gym in American Kickboxing Academy later in your career, do you think moving on from Team Alpha Male was the right call for T.J. Dillashaw?

JF: I don't see anything wrong with it as long as he left on good terms. If he feels he's going to be able to get certain things done better for him in his career if he goes to a different gym, I don't see why it wouldn't be okay for him to do that. A lot of people would think it's not okay for him to do that. You shouldn't stick to one spot, camp or gym because of loyalty if it's going to be a detriment toward your ability to grow. You need to be able to grow. You're not always going to be stuck in one place. If you're just holding onto that one gym from a loyalty standpoint, or that gym isn't being loyal to you by keeping you there -- they should be hoping that you're doing everything in your ability to be the best the best fighter you can be and if that means you have to step away then that's what that means.

Guys who do a gym-hopping type of thing, I think that's more detrimental and less loyal where Tuesday you go to this gym and Wednesday you go to that gym. You're skipping around for certain workouts or certain people. If you're moving to a full-tine place and are going to be committed, I think that's fine.

Did you ever see egos clash during your time at AKA and was that a factor in your split?

JF: I felt I needed to be somewhere where I was needed more. I think everybody was doing so well and everything was awesome. I helped build AKA to where it was, but they didn't need me and I feel like I flourish and strive when I'm in a place that needs me. I definitely get that at One Kick's. There's a lot of younger guys and they need someone in their ear who has experience and it's more inspiring to me -- more motivating -- to be somewhere where I'm really needed. At AKA, we were all doing good things together. I was just one of the guys. They've enjoyed plenty of success without me being there.

Is there still an open door policy ...

JF: Yeah, I can still go back there and train if I wanted to. I just went back and trained with [Josh] Koscheck a little bit for this fight. After I fight Okami here, it should be for a title shot against [Jake] Shields for the open belt. There's a good chance I'd probably want to go to AKA for a little bit for some of the guys that they have for grappling reasons. Leandro Vieira and some of the guys they have up there now and where their jiu-jitsu skills are at right now, it might be a smart bet for me to go up there and I'd be able to train with Dave Camarillo. If it's going to be a top-heavy, grappling type of camp, especially with guys who know Jake's style and have been around him a long time in The Bay, it's a good possibility I'll be up there some for that fight. It's a great relationship. Luke's [Rockhold] even came down to One Kick's to spar with Chidi Njokuani. We're all very supportive of each other.

How's Josh doing? Have you been in touch with him more since his divorce from UFC?

JF: We've talked because I went up there a couple of weeks for this camp. I was talking to him a lot about the fighter's association and what was going on with the lawsuits. He's on board with support and he knows what needs to be changed. He's happy to be done with ZUFFA, that's for sure.

Is your new mission to leave MMA a better place when it's all said and done?

JF: That's the goal. That's what it is. I mean, going through the whole thing over the years. I didn't like the way it was run. I didn't feel like it ran like a professional sport should. I went to a Big 10 school and wrestled and I know what it's like to be treated in a sports environment where you're treated with respect and not just with coaches and fans and the press. I know how that feels and MMA has just not felt like that.

I've talked to and kept in touch with different football players over the years and just the way that their experiences through their sport are compared to what we have to do and go through is terrible. It's more like a circus side show or freak show, rather than a professional sport where we're respected and treated on a certain level.

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional athlete. I wanted to play pro football my whole life until senior year in high school, when I realized I wasn't big or fast enough to probably do it. I tried to focus on wrestling and then MMA came about while I was going through my wrestling career at Purdue. I always had this image of what it was like to be a professional athlete, it just never happened or came to fruition because of the way it was forced to be run by one company.

Do you feel like it's deterring some guys? You're seeing some fighters retire at a young age ...

JF: For sure. They're not making the money. When they get to a certain age, they probably have a wife, or they've been divorced or they have kids, or all of those things. When you start getting into your thirties, it's not so much about your body not being able to compete anymore or train, you can't mentally handle all the other crap you have to do. You're struggling financially and you have to train; and maybe you have some physical ailments. It starts making more sense to look into another career and if you wait until you're in your forties, well your 20 years behind everybody else your age who started work in something else.

Alright, let's talk about another serious topic in major sports, namely the NFL. Should more attention be paid to concussions in MMA?

JF: Yeah, for purely scientific reasons. I think the athletes need to be more educated on it, but I don't want to see a bunch of goodie-goodies getting involved and trying to police people to try and protect people from themselves. I want to see guys in our sport specifically be paid a fair value for value wage -- if they're generating a lot of revenue, they should receive a bigger percentage of what that revenue is right now. I don't think that's happening. If you're going to put your body at risk, you should be getting paid appropriately for it. I don't want to see people getting regulated by goodie-goodies who are outsiders. If I want to fight and I'm okay with getting brain damage fighting and making the money I'm making because it's going to make my kids' lives better and having fun doing it, I should be allowed to do that. I shouldn't be forced to stop because someone thinks I might get hurt.

People are allowed to climb mountains without safety equipment. You can go swimming with sharks -- you can do all kinds of crazy stuff, or jump out of a helicopter. Nobody is policing those people. As long as there's no excessive policing of people, who are trying to protect you from yourself, I'm fine with that.

Have you thought about failure in regard to this UFC anti-trust lawsuit?

JF: It wouldn't be a waste of time. Like with the lawsuit especially, whether it's won or lost, in four years they'll just file another lawsuit. The anti-trust lawyers -- that's all they do -- they'll refile over and over again until UFC is forced to change their business practices. They will not be able to keep operating the way they operate without being sued every four years. If they do continue, they're going to keep getting sued. They're going to have to keep paying out money so it's going to be financially beneficial to them if they change the way they do things and it will be financially beneficial to them to recognize the fighter's association.

You've had some experience with athletic commissions of late, would you like to see a more pronounced drug testing policy in WSOF?

JF: No, because USADA is a corrupt organization. I don't trust the way they do anything. WADA and Lance Armstrong and the cyclists -- there's been plenty of corruption there. I don't trust any third party. I think this needs to be handled by something like a fighter's association. I don't trust a lot of outside sources. There's lots of people trying to make money off of us. We're the ones who are ultimately at risk in these situations and we should be the ones to police it and handle it.

I don't think any outside sources have ever handled it correctly. There's no standardized rule. Somebody wrote an article about USADA and Floyd Mayweather. They wrote retroactive exemptions to things and kept trying to pass another guy's drug tests through in New York or New Jersey or something. So these are the guys who are supposed to be policing and they're corrupt.

How much sympathy do you have for Nick Diaz?

JF: It's crap. I don't think he should have to go through that. First off, I'm a medical marijuana patient and I'm an activist for the legalization of marijuana. I think it's ridiculous anybody is in prison for a harmless plant. It's more dangerous to consume too much caffeine than it is to consume marijuana. Sugar is more dangerous than marijuana. On that standpoint, it's ridiculous he's scrutinized at all for that. His punishment is clearly just a bullying -- bow down to us, we're the overlords ... "Do what we say" kind of punishment. It has nothing to do with anything other than that.

What's your opinion on fighting on primetime versus fighting on PPV?

JF: I like fighting on primetime because I think it's better for the fans. I think the fans shouldn't have to pay $60 to watch a PPV. The PPV split is not fair with the company that hosts PPVs. I think hopefully people will start and companies will realize there are better ways to do it -- there are streaming capabilities where they can put on these shows online. A lot of these new TV's will have Internet built-in and you can have an app to stream the events live for a couple of dollars and you'd still make more revenue than doing the PPV for $60. Hopefully, they'll start getting more on board with more of the technology that's available right now. I like being able to fight on free cable TV right now. I think you have a little bit more of an opportunity to make more in sponsorships because if it's free on cable television, more viewership is possible and these sponsors will get more eyes. You'll also have a lot of replays.

I think we're going to see an influx of more sponsors come over the next year that were cast out of UFC. There will be more money coming to the fighters that way.

Do you think we'll see an MMA free agency over the next couple of years with Dana White as President of UFC?

JF: The sooner the fighters get on board with the association the better because that will show politicians also that we're serious and that we need the Muhammad Ali Act to encompass MMA. If we're working together as a group, we'll be taken more seriously with the requests and things we want. Fans can support us by contacting their elected officials and letting them know what they want. Free Nick Diaz and put the Muhammad Ali Act to encompass MMA.

Take us through this camp. How do you plan on exploiting Yushin?

JF: I think I'm a lot faster than Yushin. I've trained with a lot of fast southpaws so he should seem like he's moving in slow motion. I got to do some great work with Koscheck up at Dethrone Base Camp in Fresno. He's a tough wrestler and he's also got Chris Honeycutt up there, who's also a national champion wrestler and undefeated in Bellator right now.

Do you feel as if you're going to be able to take him out early?

JF: I'm planning on him being pretty strong. I'm not going to try and arm wrestle him [laughs]. I plan on using movement and I'm going to do what I do. I'm going to grind this guy and use my style and system and bury him.

For my previous article on Jon click here and for his discussion with our Steve Juon click here.