With a 13-1 record in the Octagon, a five-fight win streak, and his last loss other than to Georges St. Pierre occurring more than eight years ago, it seems as though Jon Fitch would be a lock for another crack at solving the mystery of the welterweight champ.
Since dropping a convincing five-round decision to GSP in August 2008 the former Purdue Boilermaker has gone on to defeat the likes of respected foes such as Paulo Thiago, Ben Saunders, and Thiago Alves. However, all of the victories came by way of decision, and fighters who don’t finish opponents with consistency in a business requiring mainstream marketability the image of a hard-working grinder doesn’t necessarily resonate with the public as a trash-talking striker or newly-signed champion might.
As a result, rather than having the opportunity to avenge his loss to St. Pierre, Fitch will watch former Strikeforce middleweight title-holder Jake Shields face the welterweight phenom and instead take on MMA icon B.J. Penn in the headlining bout at UFC 127 scheduled for February 26 at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia. However, simply because a belt won’t be on the line at the event isn’t to say Fitch doesn’t understand the importance of who he will be facing.
“I think I’m better than Jake. I think I should be fighting for the title. But I’ve been given a huge opportunity here to fight Penn, and that’s a big fight, belt or no belt,” the American Kickboxing Academy staple explained to media in a recent press conference to promote the upcoming show.
In regards to his inability to put opponents away over the last few years, Fitch equated it in terms of baseball.
“I am a homerun hitter who has hit a slump. But in my slump, I am still beating top guys pretty easy,” the 23-3 welterweight began. “Now with the improvements I’ve made in the gym, the slump is over and I am going to hit a homerun (at UFC 127). I am going to be a world champion, and I know before that happens I need to finish Penn.”
Of Fitch’s thirteen wins in the Octagon only four have been the result of a TKO/submission with the last scorecard-avoiding outcome occurring in mid-2007 against Roan Carneiro.
Then again, that doesn’t mean Fitch is letting the pressure get to him, as he in fact has a far more playful reason to be motivated towards his ultimate goal of beating the well-rounded Hawaiian.
“This is a fun fight for me,” he continued on the subject of his match-up with Penn. “I haven’t been this motivated since I fought for the title. B.J. has roots at the AKA Gym where I train and my own coaches talk about him and what he did in the gym back in the day. And I am kinda sick of hearing it; I am like the younger brother who wants to outshine the cool older brother who achieved all these things.”
In addition to Fitch vs. Penn, the main card of UFC 127 will feature George Sotiropoulos facing Dennis Siver, Carlos Condit crossing paths with Chris Lytle, Michael Bisping taking on Jorge Rivera, and Ross Pearson against Spencer Fisher.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC