By the time UFC welterweight Jon Fitch (23-4-1 draw, 1 NC, MMA) steps into the cage to face Erick Silva (14-2, 1 NC, MMA) at UFC 153, it will have been close to a year since his last fight in the Octagon. In December 2011, Fitch suffered a 12-second knockout loss to Johny Hendricks. Since that loss, he’s been striving to make his return and has dealt with knee injuries that kept him out of a scheduled fight against Aaron Simpson in July. Wednesday night, Jon Fitch said to MMA Fight Corner that he is fully recovered and ready to make an impact on October 13 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil against the UFC’s rising prospect, Erick Silva.
“I’ve been having to battle with some different minor injuries throughout the past year and a half or two. My body’s feeling good. I haven’t had any problems or complications this fight camp. It’s been the best fight camp I’ve had in a long time and I’m excited to face someone like Erick Silva on the 13th.”
Now that Fitch feels rejuvenated and ready to go, he wants to make sure he makes a statement against Silva. Prior to his loss at UFC 141, Fitch fought BJ Penn in Japan, that fight went to a draw. With UFC 154 expected to have top contenders, Johny Hendricks and Martin Kampmann, face-off in the 170 lb division in what should a division title eliminator, Fitch knows he’ll have to work hard to get his name recognition back.
“I’ve only had two fights in something like a year-and-a-half, or a little over a year-and-a-half, and that sucks, so you know people forget pretty quickly in this sport. So, I’m looking to take this opportunity to remind people that I’m still here and that I’m to be feared in this weight class.”
Going to fight overseas in Brazil’s HBSC Arena, Fitch is not concerned with heading into Silva’s native territory as the underdog. Instead, Fitch is relishing every part of the opportunity. “I’m pretty excited about getting to fight in Brazil. When I first started fighting it was one of my goals to get the opportunity to fight in Brazil,” Fitch said. “It’s always been one of my goals to fight in these places. It’s one of the reasons I got into this sport. When I wrestled at Purdue University, one of the things that I fell in love with was getting to travel around the country and wrestle all over the place, see places of the world that I normally wouldn’t. Now it’s just to a bigger level. I get to visit to exotic places all over the world and fight all the locals.”
The trade off sometimes is that the home crowd doesn’t cheer you on, but Fitch thinks he can convince them to change their mind. “I don’t necessarily want to shut that crowd up, I just wanna pull a Rocky 4, get them on my side, make them love me, make them respect me. That’s more of what I’m looking to happen then make me shut them up. I’m not going in there to disrespect or try to one up their country. I’m just trying to show them what I can do and what I am as a fighter,” Fitch stated.
Though his fights haven’t been in the spotlight in the past 18 months, his fight team, the American Kickboxing Academy out of San Jose, CA has been. A documentary series was released this year called the “Fight Factory” which has featured AKA its team. “I think they’re really doing a good job with it. They’re keeping it true to what’s happening with the gym and it’s not all Kardashian. They ask use to have certain conversations in front of the camera, but other than that, it’s all real,” Fitch said of the series and it’s true to life approach.
It’s no secret that Josh Koscheck has left AKA in San Jose to start his own gym in Fresno. Koscheck, the perennial bad boy actually told Fitch he hoped AKA would burn to the ground. Ultimately, Kos couldn’t see eye-to-eye with AKA’s head trainer, Javier Mendez and they parted ways. Even if some of the internal strife was revealed on-camera, Fitch said both men handled the situation the best that they could.
“I don’t know if it’s awkward, but I think it’s kind of unfortunate because I think it sucked the whole thing with losing Koscheck from the gym. I wish things could have happened differently, but he felt the way he felt and decided it was better for him to be in Fresno. So he did what he thought he had to do and the cameras just happened to catch that,” Fitch explained. “There’s nothing on our side to be embarrassed about, things just happen sometimes. I think Javier handled himself well in the situation. And Koscheck did what he felt he needed to do.”
When Fitch makes his return to the welterweight division, the complexion of it will have changed for sure. Until current UFC Welterweight Champ Georges St. Pierre and Interim UFC Welterweight Champ Carlos Condit fight to unify the belt in November, no contender at 170 will know who gets the title shot next; though the winner of Hendricks-Kampmann could be the next challenger.
“I think the division is all up in the air right now. It’s like we all just had some kind of big impact on the ground like we’re all standing around on a trampoline and something hit it and we all jumped up in the air and we’re waiting for the pieces to hit. I think the next series fights over the next six months is going to kind of let us see how things are settling. Who’s going where, and who’s staying at the top, and who’s making a move to the top. You never know how GSP’s going to come back from his injury. When you have an injury like that to your knee or a major joint, it’s never the same,” Fitch said. “Things change, they slide different, the stability is different, you have to re-learn how to use that knee and you have to redevelop that confidence, some guys never do. We’ll have to see how he comes back. I’m sure he’ll be 100% and adapt to it fine, but you never know.”
As far as the system the UFC has in place that determines who’s next, Fitch said it could use some tweaking. As of now, he feels it’s more of a popularity contest. Fitch believes if there was a clearer hierarchy, or breakdown of rankings within divisions, that maybe it’d be easier to plug fighters into bouts if someone in a fight has to withdraw before the fight happens.
“I think that’s what we’re coming to see kind of, or least that’s what I’m coming to accept, is that title shots and the belt holder, a lot of times it’s more of a popularity contest than a sport. And I think we have things like with 151 and Jon Jones and that type of situation happening, because if we had more criteria and it was more sport based than popularity based, or ticket sales based, then you would have kind of a ranking system and a pecking order and you would know exactly who the replacement is. You would go into every title, every eliminator, every kind of contender fight, knowing who the alternate is. There would be no worry of ‘Oh no we don’t have somebody to fight the belt holder or somebody to fight in this title eliminator’ because you’d have the alternate ready to go,” Fitch stated. “We’ve gotten to a case now where we’re kind of selling fights based on one guy or one fight rather than the whole show. If you went to the UFC or to one of these Strikeforce’s in order to see ten great fights or twelve great fights, not just one guy fighting. I think we kind of are going the road boxing is a little bit and that gets into the situation where shows get canceled.”
Fitch makes his return to the Octagon at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on October 13th and will fight Erick Silva who has 12 finishes in his 15 wins. Both of Silva’s UFC wins have come via first round finish, one submission and one knockout. Silva’s 2nd fight in the UFC was a controversial loss. He had TKO’d Carlo Prater in the first round at UFC 142 in Brazil, but referee Mario Yamasaki ruled the fight a loss claiming Silva had used punches to the back of the head. The fight card will be headlined by Anderson Silva vs Stephan Bonnar in a 205 lb, three round, non-title bout.