Jon Fitch on UFC Ranking System: “There’s No Order, There’s No Lineup, There’s No Point System. It’s Just Whoever They Feel They’re Going To Make The Most Money Off Of.”
Says he will put the “old-man strength” on UFC 153 opponent Erick Silva
By Tom Taylor
At UFC 87, in August of 2008, UFC welterweight Jon Fitch almost reached the top of the mountain. Fitch had earned himself a title shot against pound–for-pound great, and current welterweight champion George St. Pierre, and would do battle with the Canadian in the main event.
Things did not go as planned for Fitch, however, as he lost his title bid by unanimous decision. From there, Fitch amassed five straight wins, apparently zeroing in on a second shot at the title.
Yet following a draw with BJ Penn at UFC 127, Fitch’s stock took another hit when he was floored by a Johny Hendricks knockout in 12 seconds at UFC 141. On October 13th, Fitch will look to ascend the ladder again, as he takes on dynamic young contender Erick Silva at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
With his training camp underway, Fitch agreed to speak with Full Contact Fighter about his upcoming scrap in Silva’s back yard. Thus far, he says he’s feeling great about the fight.
“Training’s going really good. My body is feeling awesome—I haven’t felt this good in awhile. I’m pretty excited about this fight.” Despite his current optimism, though, Fitch admits that in the lead up to his loss to Hendricks, his head wasn’t in as good a place.
“My head wasn’t even in the fight in the first place. I fought because I needed money. I should have pulled out of the fight because I had a second-degree MCL tear in my right knee. I wasn’t able to grapple or wrestle at all during the training camp,” he said. Still, he refuses to make excuses, and takes responsibility for the loss.
“I don’t want to disrespect Johny Hendricks. He’s a hell of a fighter, but I didn’t even put myself in a position to win that fight. I was struggling a little bit with the mortgage and I couldn’t afford not to fight.” Furthermore, Fitch believes the referee stoppage might have been premature.
“I think I could have continued in that fight. I think I got hit twice, but I was conscious. I saw the ref jumping on me, and I was like ‘what are you doing?’ I knew what was going on the whole time. I just lost half a second from the time that he hit me to the time that I hit the ground. That was the only time I was out. It wasn’t a clean, full knockout,” he said. “I just want to make sure that if I’m out, I’m out. I want to make sure that the ref isn’t making a mistake. If I get hurt from it, so be it, but we’re talking about a lot of money, whether you win or lose. It’s a big hit to the bank account if the ref steps in even a little bit early,” he continued. In light of the way his fight with Hendricks unfolded, Fitch says he’d happily agree to a rematch down the road.
“He’s a great fighter and I’d like to test myself against him again. I feel like I owe him a real fight. I didn’t put myself in a situation to give him a real fight and I kind of robbed him of that opportunity too.” For now, however, his loss to Hendricks is in the rear-view mirror, and his fight with Erick Silva looms on the horizon. Fitch will look to turn a win over Silva into the beginning of another impressive win streak, but he is unsure of what exactly he’ll have to do before another title shot is in his sights. According the long-time contender, there’s no way to be sure when a shot will come into range.
“It’s impossible to tell. There’s no system for picking number one contenders. There’s no order, there’s no lineup, there’s no point system. It’s just whoever they feel they’re going to make the most money off of. That’s who gets the title shot. It kind of sucks, because in other sports there’s kind of a clear path; you do this, this and this, and you get this. That’s just not the way combat sports work I guess. It doesn’t work that way with boxing or the UFC. It comes down to showmanship. I have to be a better showman to get a title shot. I don’t have to be a better fighter I just have to be a better showman.” A recipient of criticism in the past for his grinding, smothering style, Fitch does understand that finishing fights, rather than winning decisions, is the thoroughfare to belt-fights.
While he may have taken a few steps back in the welterweight pecking order, things haven’t been all bad for Fitch. He recently starred in a documentary, entitled “Such Great Heights.” Overall, he says moonlighting as a movie star has been an exciting experience.
“It was pretty awesome. I was pretty surprised at just how awesome they did on the movie; with the production quality. You see a lot of MMA documentaries and they’re just guys with camcorders following people around, but these guys put together a really good story, and found a really good supporting cast with our guys at the gym. The thing I love about it the most is that it’s like a little time capsule of that period in my life. I’ll put it in and watch it just because it picks me up and reminds me how close I came. It was a pretty cool experience.”
The glitz and glamour of the movie industry aside, Fitch has a daunting task ahead of him. Silva, who has lost only twice in sixteen fights (one of those losses was a controversial disqualification to Carlo Prater), is now just a stone’s throw from a title shot and will be unwilling to give up any ground. His aggressive and variable style has Fitch excited for an action-packed fight.
“He’s a tough opponent. I like a lot of things he brings to the table. I’m excited for this fight because I definitely think he’s going to be coming for me. Some of the best fights are when you have someone like that, someone who’s just going to keep coming for you. I’m excited to fight him.” For Fitch, the deal is only sweetened by the opportunity to explore Silva’s native Brazil.
“I’m very excited to get the chance to go to Brazil. One of the reasons that I ever got into this fight game was that I love travelling. I got addicted to it, going to different places throughout the country when I wrestled at Purdue. I didn’t want to get locked down at one job, in one city, with maybe one vacation a year. I wanted to travel and see the world. Fighting was the ticket for me to do that. When he lands on foreign soil to throw down with Silva, Fitch expects his preparation to serve him well.
“We’ve changed some things up. We’ve changed my stance up a little bit, we’ve got a new jiu jitsu coach, Leandro [Viera], and the system of the Viera brothers is pretty cool. I think we’re going to have a lot of good answers for what a lot of guys are doing in MMA right now. We’re hopefully going to set a trend in the next year or so, all the guys from AKA, if we get this system down, and the kind of grappling they’re teaching.”
When he gets the opportunity to apply all of his hard work, Fitch believes his experience and ability to capitalize on Silva’s mistakes will lead him to a win.
“I’m going to out there and put the old-man strength on him and put the beat down on him wherever I can. I’ve always gone into fights with the mindset that I’m not just going to take what they give me, I’m going to put pressure on them and make them make mistakes. I’ve always done that and it’s always worked out pretty well.” When fight night rolls around, Fitch hopes to silence the critics and finish his opponent.
“I think we’re going to have a really fast fight, and I’d like to submit Erick Silva, you know, I think I can. I think I can get him to expose some things that make him vulnerable and I think I can put him away.”