By Zach Arnold | December 30, 2011
Jon Fitch has taken a PR beating for the comments he said to Ariel Helwani about where he wants the direction of the sport of MMA to be heading in the near future. Most people briefly listened to the interview or read commentary about it elsewhere.
However, is the blowback he’s receiving for his interview comments fair?
Let’s take a look at what was actually said during the interview. Jon discussed how UFC took very good care of him after he needed surgery. He had fought BJ Penn to a controversial draw, then got hurt, and now is fighting tonight for the first time after a long layoff. For about three minutes at the beginning of the interview, Jon Fitch was being nice guy Jon Fitch. Then he was asked about how the media and fans are largely ignoring his comeback fight tonight and instead focusing on Nate Diaz/Donald Cerrone & Brock Lesnar/Alistair Overeem.
JON FITCH: “We have a good relationship. I love he UFC, I love being here… I just, I advocate speaking out how I think the sport should go. Whether they agree with me or not or I agree with them, it doesn’t really matter. I mean, you know, you can have disagreements in a family and still be a family. But for me it’s, you know, I want to make sure we stay true to the sport and I don’t want to see us become pro-wrestling because I hate pro-wrestling. I was betrayed by pro-wrestling when I was a child and I don’t want to be doing that to some other kid now who’s watching fights, UFC fights and watching me and other guys and thinking that it’s real. I want to make sure that it’s real.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “How were you betrayed by pro-wrestling?”
JON FITCH: “Well, when I went to my first wrestling practice in the 4th grade I found out that pro-wrestling was fake and that was the worst, ultimate betrayal that I could have ever encountered in my life at that time.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “And since then, cold turkey, shut them off…”
JON FITCH: “Shut it off, threw all my wrestling stuff away like that day. I was just over it.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “Now, why do you think that MMA could be becoming pro-wrestling or at least perceived that way?”
JON FITCH: “Because I want to make sure that it stays a sport and sports are about who wins, who’s the best at what they do and this is about fighting and who’s the best at the fight, you know, UFC 1 was about the Gracies demonstrating that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was the best style for fighting. When everybody learned that and they learned a lot of other styles and now it’s about games and individuals, games in the fight game and not so much just one style. Like Bruce Lee said, you know, there’s no one best martial art. It’s got to be mixed all together. So, now you have guys who’ve mixed it all together and now it’s all about games, each individual’s game and how they can put their game forward and use their game and their skill sets to win the fights and I want to make sure that it stays true to that because that’s real to me. Just setting up, you know, two random guys off the street because it’s an exciting, because they punch each other a lot… it doesn’t make sense to me, it’s not a real fight to me. I want to see the best guys, the best games up against each other.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “You’re not the first to bring this up, that you’re afraid of the trash talking and all that sort of, you know, gets more attention than someone who just goes out there and wins. But do you feel as though it’s all sort of falling on deaf ears because, at the end of the day, those guys are going to get more attention and, you know, let’s say something like yourself who just goes out there, puts on his hard hat, you know, blue collar type of guy wins but maybe not garnering the same kind of the attention at the end of the day there aren’t enough of you out there to really change the way things are going…”
JON FITCH: “You know, I think with a long-enough timeline there will be enough of us. There’s enough fighters now who are developing those skills to win and keep winning and do well and I think the focus will shift because I think, you know, the expansion of the sport is kind of powerful right now and a lot of that trash talking and a lot of the outside stuff is involved with the expansion of the sport. But once that sport’s expanded I think it’s going to fall back on, you know, the base of the sport. Does the sports have legs? And I think guys like me and there’s plenty of other guys like me who fight the way I do or fight with their skill set, regardless of what their skill set is, that’s going to support this sport and is going to carry it forward.”
Later on in the interview, he was asked about whether or not he should be getting a title shot soon due to his great win-loss record.
ARIEL HELWANI: “Do you sometimes sit back and think that in other sports, most sports, team sports, basketball, baseball, football, you’re not judged really based on how you perform. At the end of the day if you win, you keep winning, you get the championship, other than say MMA, boxing, maybe figure skating and gymnastics, those are the only ones where performance really goes into whether or not you become a champion. Does that bug you?”
JON FITCH: “I mean, a little bit. I think it’s a little obscene because it’s a fight, you know, and a fight is a fight. If you win the fight, you win. If you lose, you lose. You know, I think style points, you know… they (only) go so far but it shouldn’t rule the whole day. To me, a loser, a beautiful loser is a still a loser. You know, you got beat up. If you lost, you got beat up. When I fought GSP (in Minneapolis) and I lost, I got beat up. Like, it doesn’t matter how much people love watching you get beat up. If you lost, you got beat up. That’s the end of the story and that’s as far as it goes. So, I mean, I don’t really understand the whole… you know, loving guys who get beat up well.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “That said, though, do you need a finish on Friday night in order to cement yourself…”
JON FITCH: “For myself, I Need one. I’m very frustrated with myself in the way that I’ve been, my performances have gone and I’ve been working a lot with Dave Camarillo and my striking coach and tweaking a lot of things and we’ve had a lot of time to kind of sit back and refocus and kind of re-do some things.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “It also seems that, I just read a great feature on you in Fight Magazine, that you stopped caring about what people think of you…”
JON FITCH: “I never really cared but I vocally put it out there. Now I’m saying that I don’t care so people know that I don’t care.”
ARIEL HELWANI: “Why all of a sudden do you feel the need to tell us this?”
JON FITCH: “You know, I think, you know, before you had to be on eggshells because you want to be fan-friendly or whatever. I mean, when it comes down to it, I know who my fans are and they love me and I love them and I always put out extra effort to make sure that my fans are taken care of. I’m the one whose signing autographs at the fan expos when the doors are closed and security are throwing people out, I’m still there an hour after. So like I don’t care if you’re just some loser on the Internet who I’ve never met, who doesn’t have a real name, who doesn’t come to any of the shows or probably doesn’t even pay for any of the PPVs. So, I don’t really care to cater to you.”