I feel bad for Jon Fitch. Here's a guy with a 13-1-1 record in the UFC. Wins over Thiago Alves (twice), Diego Sanchez, Paulo Thiago. Fought to a draw with B.J. Penn in a bout that I, and the computers, believe he won. He has one loss in nearly a decade, to Georges St. Pierre, the number 1 or 1a pound-for-pound fighter in the entire world.
All Fitch receives in return is guff. Guff from the UFC for not wanting to sign over his likeness rights. Guff from fans for his grinding style of fight. Guff from whatever cosmic force that is preventing him from a rematch with GSP.
I suspect he'll receive more guff today.
"I'm at a point in my career where I need to be fighting main events and main event fighters," Fitch told MMAWeekly.com. "And if you don't have a belt, currently, or you haven't owned a belt in the UFC, I'm not really interested."
"I've gone out of my way throughout my career to just fight everybody they put in front of me and it's cost me dearly," he said. "When you fight somebody who no one knows and don't recognize their name, it doesn't matter how bad you beat them.
"I kind of had a talk with Rashad Evans during the expo up in Canada. (It) kind of opened up my eyes to it a little bit. He was telling me I (have to) stop screwing around, I have to think about my career, and I'm a main event fighter. I should only be fighting main event people."
That he took advice from Rashad Evans, another fighter who takes heat from everyone under (and including) the sun, brings a smile to my face.
I can already hear the complaints in my head. Fighters shouldn't pick and choose opponents. If I told my boss I didn't want to fight someone, I'd be fired. Typical half-brained nonsense.
Here's SB Nation MMA's Jonathan Snowden, on why Fitch's decision is a prudent one:
For Fitch, this makes perfect sense. And as we seen the sport grow, as the money gets bigger, with more on the line than ever, we'll continue to see fighters picking and choosing opponents. Fighting Rick Story is a no win proposition for a fighter like Jon Fitch. Story has a style built to make opponents look bad. Worse, his "Q" value is so low that beating him is of no benefit. We have a ton of workmen in the building today. If one of them was secretly Rick Story, I'm not sure I'd pick him out of the crowd.
I couldn't pick Rick Story out of a crowd, let alone from other faceless UFC welterweights like Jake Ellenberger, Brian Foster, and Mike Pierce, names that conjure images of some half-brained sitcom about four blue-collar construction workers.
That's not to mention that Fitch has wasted enough fights already. He beat Pierce at the end of 2009, Akihiro Gono (Untelevised! Following his fight with GSP!) in the beginning of that year, Chris Wilson in 2008, Luigi Fioravanti in 2007.
Jon Fitch gains nothing from fighting Rick Story, a fighter unknown outside of Vancouver, Washington, and websites such as this one. It's a fight, at best, the UFC could market as the co-main event on a pedestrian PPV card, and one that could derail Fitch's career in defeat.
Fitch has earned the right to be a little choosey about his career. What has Rick Story done that deserves precedence over the number two guy in the division? We're still not two years removed from his loss to John Hathaway in the trenches of MMA-hating Germany.
So who SHOULD Jon Fitch fight? Well, he claims he'll be ready to fight in November, December at the very latest in worst-case scenario. He wants rematches with St. Pierre and Penn. St. Pierre was rumored to fight Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz in December, but it sounds like Showtime is making that fight very difficult. Penn, meanwhile, is spontaneously calling out Jake Shields
at dinner with Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta on Twitter.
If GSP/Diaz falls through, Fitch makes the most sense as Plan B. If Penn and Shields fight, put them on in September which sets up the timetables for the winner to fight Fitch at the year-end show in December. Easy game.