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A look at the evolution of American Kickboxing Academy and Jon Fitch

By Zach Arnold | November 24, 2010

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Really an excellent interview on HDNet and I wish more of this content was available online. I have included a transcription of the full interview (click on full-page mode). Or watch the interview if you get some spare time.

RON KRUCK: “Jon, how long have you trained here at AKA and what brought you to this gym?”

JON FITCH: “I moved out here May 20th, 2003, it was the year after I graduated. I stayed on for a year at Purdue and then I had some pro fights. My assistant wrestling coach Tom Erikson at Purdue had been fighting in Japan and he kind of guided me and got me my first fight and he was contacted by DeWayne Zinkin who was working with Bob Cook and Javier Mendez and even Frank Shamrock at the time and, uh, Frank was actually part of the reason I kind of came out because I talked to these guys and I wasn’t sure I wanted to moved to California or if it was the right move for me to make. I really didn’t know anything about the gym. But then I watched Frank Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz and I thought, you know what? Why not? Why not just go out there and give it a try. Came out for, um, a month during Thanksgiving I think it was 2002, came out for a week actually, sorry, and just trained and got a feel for the gym and coaches and people around here and I knew that this was the place to be. There was so many people to work with, different stand-up trainers, different ground people, and this was even before Dave Camarillo was in the picture and I knew that it was somewhere I could really take my career to the next level and I knew that I was going to come here and train but I wasn’t sure that I was going to move, yet, and a couple of weeks after that week I spent in California I fought Wilson Gouveia and I got knocked out. It was the difference between a wrestler hitting a heavy bag and a professional fighter, someone who trains all day long in the sport because that’s his job, you know, and that made all the difference and that opened my eyes and made me realize that I had to get out of Indiana and I had to get somewhere where I could get some instruction.”

RON KRUCK: “You look at the success that you have had since you’ve been here. Cain’s the next in line winning the UFC Heavyweight championship away from Brock Lesnar. So many champions have come out of AKA. Why is that?”

JON FITCH: “We have a, uh… a very team-oriented philosophy and a very productive philosophy that we’re here to create champions. We’re not here just to house a bunch of fighters and some gyms have that attitude, guys just want to be a part of something, they want to hang out, they want to go work out and joke around with the guys. We’re very committed towards creating champions and becoming champions and if you’re not here to help us then get out or we’re going to beat you up and send you out the door. Um… that’s really what it comes down to is, can we use you? Can we get better with you in the gym and if we can’t then we really don’t have a use for you here.”

RON KRUCK: “I think a lot of people were surprised that Cain, what he did to Brock Lesnar and the way that he won. I know that you and everyone here that trains at AKA probably weren’t so surprised.”

JON FITCH: “You know, a lot of us were still surprised that he did it in the first round. A lot of us were pretty certain that that was going to play out in the second or the third round. Yeah, a little bit later, but I think all we kind of knew when Brock hit the takedown and Cain popped right back up. From that moment I was like, what’s he going to do to him now? There’s nothing that Brock can do to Cain to threaten him at all and uh… yeah, it was just… it was intense, that was a crazy night.”

RON KRUCK: “I think a lot of people from ASU alumni…”

JON FITCH: “I was sitting right next to (Ryan) Bader, we were on our chairs. It was crazy. It was great.”

RON KRUCK: “You know, you look at Cain and how he is an example of how AKA really makes champions.”

JON FITCH: “He’s quiet and he does what he’s told, you know. He has faith in his coaches and his teammates to do the right things and do the things that he’s supposed to and he does the work himself. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t bitch and moan, Javier comes in and says, Cain, go kick the bag a 1,000 times, he likes he goes back and kicks the bag 1,000 times. He doesn’t complain about it, he doesn’t say, ‘oh, I’m kind of sore’ or ‘oh, I did this this morning.’ He just does it. And, uh… he’s a great example of that, being in the moment. Cain’s great at being in the moment, whether he’s working out in the gym or in the cage in the fight, you know, he’s always able to stay in that moment and stay on and that’s why he’s so impressive. I mean… a heavyweight that can move like him with that kind of cardio, I think that a lot of that comes from him just being able to be in the moment and not thinking about getting tired, I don’t know, maybe he’s got an extra lung, we should check him.”

RON KRUCK: “You know, uh, it seems that there are gyms nowadays popping on every street corner and that’s what I love about AKA… People don’t understand that a lot of these gyms are in strip malls and every day a new place is popping up. You touched on it a little bit, Jon, but what separates AKA from all those other gyms?”

JON FITCH: “It’s too hard to put your finger on one thing that’s going to separate AKA from all the other gyms. It’s a combination of great leadership, great fighters, um… and great supportive people who are there to support the fighters and I mean girlfriends, wives, baby’s mommas, um… we don’t have a lot of crazy people distracting us at this gym and that’s because we don’t allow it, for one, and two is we all are on the same page. We all know what we want and what it takes to get there and for the younger guys who don’t exactly know what it takes to get there, they have people to show them the way. They have guys like me, they have guys like Cain. If they have a question on what they’re supposed to be doing, it’s very easy for them to look up and see what they’re supposed to be doing and copy it.”

RON KRUCK: “Javier Mendez opened the doors at AKA all the way back in 1987. Does AKA go as Javier goes? Is he kind of the general here?”

JON FITCH: “Yeah, we always, we kind of call him The Don, he’s kind of a Don like The Godfaher, you know, he might not say much, he might not seem like he’s all that involved or even around all the time but he is, he’s always got an eye out, he’s always watching and he’s always the one who makes kind of the final decisions in the back room about opponents and fights and things like that, you know, he’s always had a strong influence on developing fighters careers and that’s an important aspect that a lot of gyms don’t do. They don’t develop a fighter’s career, they just take the biggest payday they can as soon as they can and in this sport if you lose two or three fights it’s really hard to put yourself back into a position where you’re going to make money and get yourself in line for a title shot.”

RON KRUCK: “Let’s change topics and talk specifically about you. You’re coming off another victory, your fifth straight against Thiago Alves. Now that you’ve had some time to look back at that fight, how happy with your performance are you?”

JON FITCH: “I’m happy. Uh… but in the end I’m not happy with any of my performances. I always feel that I could be doing better. I feel that there’s more that I can be doing, more that I can be improving on. Finishing has always been a problem in the last like 8 fights or so. I don’t know if I’m focusing too much on it or not enough. I’m doing a lot of things in the gym to change things up to see if I can make a difference out of that. Um… so there’s always negatives to every fight, but overall I’m happy with the performance. I’m happy with being able to control and take him out of his element, happy with being able to wear him down through cardio and I even went for a number of submissions, they put me in bad positions a few times, got a little overaggressive which is kind of bad but is kind of good because I’m trying to push myself to that a little bit more.”

RON KRUCK: “You always have the haters out there and some of the fans have called you a boring fighter or as you said a guy who can’t finish but in any sport there are those teams that maybe aren’t the most pretty to watch but they get the job done. Would that describe your fighting style?”

JON FITCH: “Um… you know, I mean, I’m putting it out there, I’m trying to finish and… haters don’t bother me, it doesn’t bother me at all what people say because I’m always my worst critic. Anything anybody’s saying behind a computer screen I’ve said it to myself about myself a 1,000 times.”

RON KRUCK: “Wow, you’re a tough critic.”

JON FITCH: “Yeah, there’s nothing anybody’s said that even comes close to how hard I am on myself. … People have their opinions, whatever. I guarantee my opinion’s probably worse than yours. I’m not satisfied with those performances because of those reasons and I do feel that I need to step up in some way. I’m searching and looking for answers. I’m winning fights but I want to do it in a more impressive way, I do. I feel I’m the best Welterweight in the world. I feel I’m the best fighter in the world. I think pound-for-pound I match up with anyone. And it’s my responsibility to prove that to the people now.”

RON KRUCK: “Has Dana White ever approached you about the way that you fight or the way you finish fights?”

JON FITCH: “No. He’s never spoken to me about how the fights went at all. Yeah.”

RON KRUCK: “There are many including myself that look at your record, 23-3, you’ve won your five straight.”

JON FITCH: “26-3.”

RON KRUCK: “26-3. I’ll get that right. When you look at, you look at the success that you’ve had, Jon, and I believe and I know a lot of people in the media agree with me that you should be getting a title shot here. Why do you feel you haven’t had that, yet?”

JON FITCH: “You know, I mean, uh… I don’t know. A lot of it, we’re in the business I guess of selling fights, that’s what the UFC does. They sell fights. And if I have failed to convince them and the fans that I’m the best possible match-up for their dollar to spend on that Saturday night then I need to step it up and I’m not going to cry and bitch and moan and say, wah wah, it should be my turn or I should get this. I’m not going to step up with that feeling of entitlement, like I’m entitled something. No, I’m trying to earn something, I want to go and take it. I want to go and take my title shot, all right? If I haven’t taken it already then I plan on doing it in the next fight.”

RON KRUCK: “Is it a little frustrating, though, that you’re still waiting for this opportunity?”

JON FITCH: “You know what, honestly, it’s not as frustrating as, like I’m said, I’m my own worst critic. There’s a lot of things in my game that are bothering me and that’s much more frustrating than worrying about the title shot because I know once I deal with all of these short-comings and problems I’m having with my technique and training, everything else will take care of itself. I perfect those minor things, I start smashing people in a way that is undoubtedly the number one contender and I’ll be thrown into that title shot without any question from anybody and I’m taking it on myself, it’s my responsibility to make that happen.”

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 10 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

10 Responses to “A look at the evolution of American Kickboxing Academy and Jon Fitch”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    If Koscheck beats GSP, I could easily see Fitch moving up in weight and beating Anderson Silva….. Which could give AKA 3 World Champions….

    Not sure if Zach is going to comment on the Gerald Harris situation. I’m not half as outraged as some people online. I rewatched that fight and here was my perspective on it….

    1) Harris did not come to fight. The entire fight he probably threw about 50 strikes total and very few of them had any intentions of landing. At least 35 of his strikes were lazy jabs that were thrown from so far outside that even if they landed (and they didn’t), they would do no damage.

    2) The UFC pays people to fight. Harris did not fight. That is the biggest thing here.

    3) Lyoto Machida can get away from stalling because he is a bigger star. Gerald Harris can not. It’s no different then if in baseball Barry Bonds hits a ground ball and doesn’t run hard to first base. The team is going to give him leeway. But if some regular player does it enough, he is going to be let go. Harris isn’t a big enough star to go into a fight and basically not fight the entire time.

    4) His opponent (I forget his name), will likely be cut if he loses his next fight. Which I’m almost positive will be shoved on the undercard.

    This is a big message the UFC is sending to fighters. That the UFC is cutthroat…. And if you don’t want to make weight or come to fight…. Then they will find somebody else who is willing to.

    I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. The UFC isn’t going after boring fighters like Maynard and Fitch. They are going after fighters who don’t fight and who think they can still stick around.

    As a side note…. I’m for a UFC fighters union, but the union would not protect the fighters on this one. None of the major players unions for the major sports gets involved on teams evaluating if an athlete should be in the league. So as much as people will complain about how the fighters don’t have rights here….. Well, that’s sports in general…. Nobody is going to protect an athlete who isn’t doing what they are suppose to be doing.

  2. Kalle says:

    Maicquel Falcao fought a great fight. Screw the haters, I loved the fact that he had no problem spending half of round one waiting for an opening because when he found it he exploded on Harris and completely overwhelmed him. It was beautiful to watch and the kind of moment I watch MMA for. It more than makes up for what he did in round three, where Harris was the one who needed to step it up and didn’t.

    The UFC has no problem with fighters wrestle-humping their way to victory, I don’t see how that is very different from a striker controlling the distance and playing it safe.

  3. BuddyRowe says:

    It is ridiculous to fire Gerald Harris because of being a “boring” fighter. He has had 4 fights in the UFC, all three of his wins were by stoppage with 2 of those getting KO of the Night Awards. He had one bad showing. As we all know many times fighters enter into fights not at 100%. For all we know Gerald had an injury or personal issues. He had one fight that wasn’t his best performance and was released.

    The boring fighter label is absurd in my opinion considering all of his other fights in the UFC being bonus winning stoppages basically.

    • BuddyRowe says:

      Oh yeah, and he was on a 10 fight win streak before that fight. Its not like MW is that deep either. It is a very odd firing.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The UFC doesn’t cut “boring” fighters.

      They cut fighters who don’t fight.

      There is a huge difference.

      • David M says:

        4-1 in the UFC with 3 stoppage wins is not fighting? Do you think they should have cut Anderson after his fight with Cote or with Maia in which he didn’t fight at all?

        • 45 Huddle says:

          1) 3-1 in the UFC

          2) In his win against Branch, he almost played the passive game. Finishing the fight doesn’t mean the first 12 minuntes of the fight didn’t happen. So that’s 2 fights in a row where he came to be passive not fight.

          3) Silva is a star. They play by different rules. Just like in other major sports. And Silva won. Harris did not. When Harris lost it gave the UFC a chance to can him.

  4. Mondo says:

    Conspiracy theory: 4-1 fighter with 3 stoppages and two KO of the Night awards gets cut after fight where the round ended early saving him from being finished in the first.

  5. Rich says:

    Zack, I come to your site at LEAST once a day. I abosolutely HATE your style of typing the spoken word.

    But for this find, you deserve mad praise.

    Thank you!

    Ed. — Use the contact form and e-mail directly and let’s talk about this.

  6. Chromium says:

    They made an example out of Harris, pure and simple. It was a message to anyone who is not in the top third of the roster, that even if you have a good track record, a single really bad performance is enough to get you canned right now, particularly if it’s on the main card. This was coming off the heels of the Okami/Marquardt main-event which was pretty dull (albeit none of it was as bad as the third round of the Falcao/Harris fight).

    Yes, Harris could go to Bellator or StrikeForce and help bolster those divisions, probably after winning a single fight on the indies, but his presence isn’t going to make or break SF or Bellator’s MW divisions. I think Dana White wanted to send a strong message here and Harris was the sacrificial lamb. Just a really bad time to have a really bad fight.

    I hope the UFC would take him back after winning a couple fights outside of the organization, and I hope he was told as much.

    As for the Jon Fitch/AKA interview, nice find. Wish I could say something insightful about it, but it’s pretty cut and dry.

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