by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
He is undefeated in the UFC, yet many fans are unaware of the next big thing to come out of the welterweight division. Jon Fitch has gotten lost in mix of the UFC’s deepest division, but he hopes that he’ll get a little bit more recognition after his fight tonight against another talented welterweight, Thiago Alves.
Fitch trains with one of the best MMA teams in the United States, the American Kickboxing Academy, but many fans are unaware of him because neither of his fights in the UFC have aired on TV or pay-per-view. Fitch most recently defeated Josh Burkman by submission, and Burkman in his previous fight had beaten Drew Fickett by submission.
MMAWeekly sat down with Jon to discuss his career and what the future holds for the fighter who could very well be the next big thing in the UFC.
MMAWeekly: How did you get started in MMA, and what’s your training background?
Fitch: I started fighting four years ago. I was getting ready to graduate college and wasn’t really looking forward to having a real career. I thought about continuing wrestling and trying to make the Olympic team since I still love competing. Then I found out there is this fighting thing from my coach, Tom Erikson, and I figured I’d try it since he was making good money. What I didn’t realize is that he was on the higher tier of the pay scale, and there wasn’t a lot of money for a fighter unless if you had some Olympic experience or a national title. My background is basically wrestling and football… I wasn’t a street fighter or a troublemaker because I was just a kid from the country. I also have a purple belt in BJJ from Dave Camarillo, and hopefully after this fight I can get back into my gi and work my way up to a brown belt.
MMAWeekly: You lost your first fight. How was that experience?
Fitch: I was like, “Man, I need more work.” I was upset because I knew that I wasn’t ready for this fight. I didn’t have a corner. I had the wrong kind of mouthpiece and had no cup. People looked at me like, “What are you doing here?” I met Brian Ebersole, and he helped me out a lot with my career because he knew the Midwest fight scene. My career really took off when I made the move out to California.
MMAWeekly: How did you end up at American Kickboxing Academy?
Fitch: It’s pretty crazy. It must have been god’s will because that’s all I can think of. My agent, Dwayne Zinkin, was looking for Division One wrestlers to become fighters because he thought that they made the best fighters since they already had a solid base to start with. Zinkin talked to the Fresno wrestling coach and gave him Tom Erikson’s number because he knew that Tom had some guys interested in fighting. That’s how I ended up here. We talked and he told me that he wanted me to get a couple of more wins before signing me. I ended up getting signed, and I’ve been here training for the last three years.
MMAWeekly: You beat Shonie Carter in late 2003. How did that fight affect your career?
Fitch: I was really happy about that win. I had a lot of help from my team, and Shonie was a tough guy. I did what I needed to do to control the fight, and I put enough pressure on him that he eventually gave up. I really thought that my career would really take off from there, but it didn’t. What ended up happening is that everyone said that Shonie was old [and] he was sick… instead of saying how good I was, what they ended up saying was that Shonie wasn’t there that night. I didn’t really get much credit for that fight, except from a couple of people that knew, and Shonie himself gave me credit.
MMAWeekly: Did you become frustrated when your career just stalled after that fight?
Fitch: I didn’t, really, because I knew that I still needed a lot more work. I had no stand-up, and it wasn’t a good idea for me to be standing with anyone at that time. I was just starting BJJ with Dave Camarillo, and that’s when things really started to take off for me. So, in the end, everything worked out fine for me.
MMAWeekly: How did you feel when you finally got a shot in the UFC?
Fitch: I was relieved, and at the time I thought that I was ready for it. My management had been in contact with the UFC about bringing me in for a fight, and I think that I was on the back end on the list of fighters that they were going to bring in. They needed someone in an emergency and they called me. I said, “Screw it, let’s take the fight.” It was at a weight class higher then mine, and it was against someone that was also trained by Dave Camarillo.
MMAWeekly: How was your fight with Brock Larson back at Ultimate Fight Night 2?
Fitch: I dominated the three rounds, both on the ground and the striking. I was upset with myself because there were two or three chances where I could’ve finished the fight, but I didn’t take the risk at the time because I didn’t want to lose in my debut fight for the UFC. It showed the UFC that I could fight and it opened some more eyes because Brock had been on a tear in the Midwest, and it showed what kind of fighter I was.
MMAWeekly: Were you frustrated when you didn’t get another chance to fight for six months?
Fitch: It was tough not fighting, but in the time that I’m not fighting, I’m training my ass off and getting better. Sometimes it’s good having a break from fighting because you get to increase your skill set in the time off.
MMAWeekly: Did any of the trash talking that Josh Burkman did before your fight at UFN 4 motivate you more?
Fitch: I don’t get on MMA forums, so the only stuff I heard was from people that told me. I just kept training and was excited to fight someone from TUF, especially. That was a season I could have been on [season two]. I could have easily been on that show with those guys, but my personality wasn’t good enough, and that’s what seems to matter to get on the show. I knew because of who I was fighting, people were going to know who I was after I beat him because he had so many fans from being on the show. He started talking trash at the beginning, but towards the end, he gave me some props after he did some research. It was a good win, but it sucks that they haven’t aired it on TV for some reason.
MMAWeekly: Did the fight go as you expected it to?
Fitch: The fight pretty much went the way I wanted. There were a couple of times that I resorted back to wrestling instincts. I rocked him with a hook and I rushed him instead of picking my shots and finishing him, which I should have done. Another time, I rocked him with a combination and I went into a shot and took him down instead of finishing on the feet. I eventually passed his guard, took his back, and choked him, but I could’ve finished him earlier and a lot flashier. Overall, it was a good fight and I was happy with it.
MMAWeekly: Your next fight is at UFN 5 against Thiago Alves. What are your thoughts on the fight?
Fitch: Thiago is tough… a lot of hard kicks and decent hand speed. His ground [game] is okay, but not great. I think my ground is much better, and me on top of him is going to be a nightmare for him. He is short, too, and I have a huge reach advantage over him since I’m 6’0 and he is like 5’7 or 5’8. The weight is going to be a factor, too, since he’s just a big 155-pounder. I think he should cut down to lightweight because I think he can be a force there. I think that my size and pressure will be too much for him
MMAWeekly: What kind of training have you been doing for this fight?
Fitch: Lots of cardio and grappling… a lot of sparring with guys that throw lots of legs kicks and head kicks, working on counters to the leg kicks. If he has done his research, it isn’t smart to kick a wrestler because you’ll end up on your back. As for the fight, I don’t have a set plan for it, but we’ll see what happens once I’m in the cage.
MMAWeekly: Is there anyone in the UFC you want to fight, and what are your goals in the UFC?
Fitch: I just want to fight as many of the top guys I can. I want to have one of those stat sheets where you look at my fight record and be amazed at the caliber of fighters that I have beaten. For my career, I just want to keep on fighting and making money. I [would like] to get my fights shown on TV at one point, since it’s basically impossible to get money from sponsors unless you’re on TV. My goal is to make a living out of fighting or I would be teaching. It’s not happening yet, but hopefully in a couple of fights, it will.
MMAWeekly: Is there anyone you want to thank?
Fitch: I would like to thank my trainers They do a great job with me… “Crazy” Bob Cook, Javier Mendez, and Dave Camarillo. My teammates are great. To my fans, check out my website, www.fitchfighter.com. Most importantly, e-mail Spike TV and the UFC to let them know who you want to see fight, and that you want to see my fights on the main card, so that you’ll get a chance to see me on TV.