BJ Penn and Jon Fitch at the UFC 127 weigh-ins
Highly ranked welterweight contender Jon Fitch is all about getting big fights. For years, he’s stepped up and fought some of the toughest opponents in the division.
As of late, one fighter who’s made waves at 170 pounds is Rick Story. The fighter out of Brave Legion in Washington State beat former title contender Thiago Alves by unanimous decision this past Saturday at UFC 130: Rampage vs. Hamill. In his postfight interviews, Story made it clear the most ideal next opponent for him is Fitch, citing that the wrestler out of Purdue is the next one up the rankings.
Fitch’s interest in the fight, however, doesn’t appear to be mutual.
“I’m at a point in my career where I need to be fighting main events and main event fighters,” Fitch told MMAWeekly.com. “And if you don’t have a belt, currently, or you haven’t owned a belt in the UFC, I’m not really interested.”
When explaining his lack of interest in such fights, Fitch expanded on the subject and advised that some of the choices he’s made in his career have hurt it. Fitch recently realized fighting opponents who have less recognition in the promotion than others will prevent him from maximizing his success in the UFC.
Jon Fitch rocks Thiago Alves at UFC 117.
This realization came to him when he had a recent conversation with former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. It was Evans that shed the light for Fitch and helped him understand the importance of making the right career moves.
“I’ve gone out of my way throughout my career to just fight everybody they put in front of me and it’s cost me dearly,” he said. “When you fight somebody who no one knows and don’t recognize their name, it doesn’t matter how bad you beat them.
“I kind of had a talk with Rashad Evans during the expo up in Canada. (It) kind of opened up my eyes to it a little bit. He was telling me I (have to) stop screwing around, I have to think about my career, and I’m a main event fighter. I should only be fighting main event people.”
When it comes to the top welterweights in the division, a few names come to mind. But when Fitch talked about which opponents spark the most interest for him, the former Division I wrestling standout had only two names in mind; both of which have or had UFC gold around their waist.
“I want BJ or GSP,” Fitch exclaimed. “Those are the only two guys I care (to fight) or have any interest in right now. If I (have to) sit out a year and wait for them, I’ll do it. That’s what I’m waiting to fight for.”
Fitch was originally slated to fight BJ Penn at UFC 132 on July 4 weekend, but a rotator cuff injury knocked him out of the bout and sidelined him for several months, forcing him into arthroscopic surgery to shave his labrum. The procedure took place about three weeks ago and physicians discovered that the supraspinatus tear was minor enough in nature where it didn’t need to be reattached. There was, however, scar tissue from years of damage that was cleaned up and taken care of as a result of the surgery.
Fitch had been in a sling since the procedure. This past Memorial Day weekend was the first time he moved around freely without it.
“It’s been three weeks since the surgery and I just stopped wearing the sling,” he said. “I have almost full range of motion on my own. We haven’t started doing any strength training or anything yet, but I’m looking pretty good. I feel really good.”
The recovery process has been quicker than expected for the UFC welterweight. With the sling removed, Fitch is living in a new home, walking distance from his new American Kickboxing Academy facility in Southern San Jose, Calif., and doing yard work to stay in shape. He and his camp have contacted the UFC and advised that he will be ready to return sooner than later and should be good to go by the holiday season.
“I should definitely be fighting in December,” he said. “There’s no reason for me not to be fighting in December. If things go better than worst case scenario, then I’m back in November.”
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Erik Fontanez is a staff writer for MMAWeekly.com.
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