In a UFC title eliminator bout, any advantage, however minuscule, can be the difference between defeat and victory. When a fighter is locked in the Octagon against an opponent as skilled and formidable as Jon Fitch or B.J. Penn they can't afford to give up the tiniest advantage.
Which is why there's been a little bit of buzz on the Interwebs about the fact that Jon Fitch's coaches at the American Kickboxing Academy have extremely close long-term relationships with Fitch's UFC 127 opponent, B.J. Penn.
Fitch's striking coach Javier Mendez, who worked extensively with B.J. Penn on his striking in the early days of Penn's MMA career, knows a great deal about Penn's approach to the game.
But even more than Mendez, AKA grappling coach Dave Camarillo has an extremely close relationship to Penn dating back to when Camarillo was a blue belt under Ralph Gracie and Penn was a white belt. They have since co-authored a book on BJJ and have maintained a friendly relationship.
Fitch talked about these relationships in his final fight diary for UFC 127 at MMA Fighting:
In fact, a lot of my coaches and training partners have had close relationships with B.J. over the years and probably know more about him than anyone else in the game. So, taking all that into account, we couldn't be better prepared right now.
B.J. got started at AKA years ago and a lot of the same guys that watched and trained him then are still around today helping the likes of me. I see that as a little bit of an advantage heading into this fight. My jiu-jitsu instructor, Dave Camarillo, actually got his black belt at the same time as B.J., and Javier Mendez spent a lot of time working on B.J.'s stand-up when he was at the gym. There are a load of guys there who have experience with B.J. and know how he functions. I'm always getting feedback from those people and really appreciate the insight.
Penn has told interviewers that he believes the advantage is actually his since he knows AKA's approach to training from the inside. Fitch claims that the gym has changed their approach dramatically since Penn has trained at the camp.
In the full entry are interviews with Dave Camarillo and Jon Fitch talking about the gym's relationship with Penn and what, if any, advantage Fitch will gain via their intimate understanding of Penn's game.
Here's Dave Camarillo talking to MMA Out Loud about Fitch and Penn:
Here's Fitch talking to Ariel Helwani (topic of Penn and Camarillo comes up at the 6:50 mark):
Penn and Camrillo training together.