A couple of years ago, UFC welterweight Jon Fitch (24-4-1) would have been the first one to say he deserved a title-shot with the sentiment being echoed by countless fans and members of the media. The grinding grappler put together a five-fight winning streak and come out victorious in eight of his nine other Octagon appearances with the lone exception involving a crack at champion Georges St-Pierre. However, as successful as Fitch was, his performances were rarely if ever labeled as entertaining and other fighters ultimately received the opportunity he felt he deserved.
All that talk ended when Fitch fought to a Draw with B.J. Penn and then suffered a knockout loss to Johny Hendricks. The run of adversity forced Fitch to reevaluate his approach to competition, not to mention life in general, with the result involving a Fight of the Night winner against Erick Silva last October.
With BJJ ace Demian Maia in front of him this weekend at UFC 156, Fitch will once again put 100% of his energy into the test he’s taking rather than look down the road at things that may never materialize, expecting the outcome to be similar to the one fans last saw from him.
“I think the biggest thing was just focus; eliminating too many thoughts and too many concerns about what was taking place in the moment. Whether it was that one individual fight, that one individual training camp, or that one individual day of training – you can’t start thinking about what is this next fight going to bring me? What’s going to happen after this? Who am I going to fight next? All those things, I think I had too much going on in my mind to be really focused on being myself, and the best version of me that I could be for the fight,” said Fitch in a recent interview with the UFC’s website. “I didn’t really change much about my style or whatever, I think I just gave myself more focus for the individual fight, and that allowed me to be the best me that I could for that fight. I think focus brings another level of performance out of me, and I don’t think that next level of performance that I’m currently operating at will be something that people will be dissatisfied with.”
Fitch is certainly smart to set his sights solely on Maia considering the Brazilian’s success at welterweight so far since a solid run at 185 pounds. The 17-4 submission specialist is 2-0 in the division with a first-frame finish of Rick Story in his latest outing.
“I get excited for challenges like this, and this is definitely a big challenge,” confessed Fitch. “He’s a very dangerous opponent in areas where I’m strong, so it’s going to be a very fun test. He’s definitely very tricky on the ground; he’s got a slow, methodical ground game that is very smooth. He’s able to transition very smoothly into submissions and his control positions. He’s not super-vicious with ground-and-pound; he may grind and control you into the submission, but he may not do a lot of damage along the way.”
Fitch-Maia can be seen as part of the PPV portion of UFC 156. Adding intrigue, Fitch has not been tapped out since his MMA debut more than a decade ago.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC