There was a very telling exchange between Dana White and the #2 welterweight in the USAT/SBN Consensus MMA Rankings Jon Fitch at the press conference after UFC 111:
Fitch: There's nothing more important to me right now than fighting for a title. ... I want a title shot.
White: Yeah, he's in the mix, there's no doubt. He's in the mix. There's a couple of guys at the top of the (welter)weight division. Maybe we do him and Koscheck for the No. 1 spot.
Q:Would you be open to that, Jon?
Fitch: No, I wouldn't be open to that.
White: He doesn't want the title shot that bad then. (chuckles)
Fitch: If that fight were to happen, it would happen in our gym, with the doors closed.
White(sarcastically): That fight would make a lot of money.
Fitch and Koscheck are training partners at the American Kickboxing Academy. They have long refused to fight each other or teammate Mike Swick -- Gal's Guide calls it their "Bros Before Hoes Policy". This wouldn't really be that big a deal except that the two of them have hung around the top tier of the UFC welterweight division for so long. Fortunately Koscheck's losses Paulo Thiago and Thiago Alves have opened up some space in the division's stratosphere, but Fitch has been perfect other than against GSP.
Despite this, Fitch thinks that his teammate has already done enough to have been fighting for the title at UFC 111 and shouldn't have to get past Paul Daley at UFC 113, per MMA Weekly:
"It's kind of disrespectful to a lot of the other fighters in the weight class that got passed by (by Dan Hardy). I think Koscheck should be fighting for the title right now. I think him and GSP should have been fighting at UFC 111."
One has to wonder whether Fitch and Koscheck would have been bitching so much if their teammate Mike Swick had beaten Dan Hardy in their title eliminator fight at UFC 105.
MMA Weekly makes a very balanced argument:
The fighters, they're camps and representation, and the promoters are going to have to decide how far to push the issue and what is the proper direction in each case as it arises.
If the title is that lucrative, or that important, the fighters will fight. If those considerations aren't as important, they won't.
It's a complex issue that gets very simple in the end, but it's sure to grab a lot of attention along the way.
Sergio Non makes the case against AKA:
A reluctance to fight training partners makes sense. There's nothing enjoyable about it for the participants. AKA fighters have become particularly tired of hearing about it; lately they've tried to impose a "no questions about teammates vs. teammates" condition before agreeing to one-on-one interviews.
But White has the right of it: Dodging teammates apparently means more than fighting for a title in this case. If a pair of top-four fighters refuse to elevate themselves by fighting each other, UFC might not feel obliged to elevate them either of them to a title shot.
AKA's athletes like to point out that they can face many competitors other than teammates. It also goes the other way - UFC has other options for contenders that don't involve unbreakable bonds of camaraderie. By turning each other down, Fitch, Koscheck and Swick could unintentionally relegate themselves to gatekeeper status.
Fitch did nothing to help his cause Saturday by winning another grinding ugly fight via decision against the unranked Ben Saunders. The guy has been a thorn in Dana White's side for a long time because he's so good but dreadfully unpopular with fans.
Something tells me that Josh Koscheck will need to beat Paul Daley in spectacular fashion to get a title shot now that Fitch has turned this into a pissing match between AKA and Dana White. We all remember how their last squabble went when Jon Fitch briefly refused to sign over rights to his video game likeness. AKA quickly folded after the UFC briefly cut Fitch. Fitch remained in the doghouse for a long time.
Normally I tend to take the side of the fighters in disputes with management, but not this time. I'd love to see Fitch vs Koscheck. Let's make it happen Dana.