World Series of Fighting has been making waves over the past couple of weeks with partnerships that signify their global expansion efforts and the purchasing of regional promotions. They have put both feet down to the ground to show the world that they are here for the long haul. Their sixth fight card is right around the corner on October 26th and will be held in Coral Gables, Fl.
The event is a solid one, and features a welterweight double header on the primary portion of the card. Former UFC Number One seed, Jon Fitch will be featured in the co-main event when he takes on Marcelo Alfaya. I recently sat down with Jon for an interview, along with my MMA Sentinel co-host, Iain Kidd. Discussion ranged from where he feels he went wrong in his last fight to the new gym he'll be operating out of in Syracuse, NY. Here's what he had to say:
*As always, the Dynamic Duo, or DD refers to myself and my co-host as one entity to keep the interview flowing in an orderly fashion and for ease of reading*
Dynamic Duo: We spoke with Carson Beebe earlier and he was singing your praises about being the best MMA wrestler in the game, talk to me a little bit about that.
Jon Fitch: That's a great compliment, I'm flattered by it. I feel like I have kind of led the way in the different ways of using wrestling to control my opponent that aren't necessarily just the shoot a double leg, shoot a single leg and take a guy down kind of approach. I call it lazy wrestling; I'm looking for lazy takedowns. I don't want to expend a lot of energy taking a guy down, you know? If I use too much energy taking a guy down, I'm going to get tired when he gets back up, and if I get stuck underneath him, that uses a ton of energy. If a guy is sprawling out on me and pushing my head down, that takes so much energy out of a person. It only a few of those in a fight to make you tired.
DD: With regards to being as energy efficient as possible, it seems to me like that's a founding principle of a lot of martial arts, but it's something a lot of MMA fighters get away from; they try to be as explosive as possible, and use a lot of energy doing so. Is that guiding principle of being as energy efficient as possible something you take to heart and try to put in all your training?
JF: Yeah, I think that's the foundation of all martial arts. Martial arts are about technique, you know? Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, wrestling, striking; it's about technique. When you have superb technique, you use literally almost no energy.
It's very easy to throw a very technical straight right hand over and over again, as opposed to a big looping overhand right that you're putting all of your muscle into with every throw. If you throw five or six of those, you start to get a little bit tired. If you take a sloppy wrestling shot on somebody and get stuffed, you're going to waste a lot of energy. If you're trying to sweep somebody from your back and you're just using strength and muscle, you're going to get tired and probably open yourself up to get submitted at the same time.
DD: I want to ask you about your last fight. It didn't seem like you in there. I was wondering if there was something extra-curricular happening there in your outside life that contributed to that. You had a falling out with the UFC and a short time later you were picked up by the WSOF and went immediately into a fight, did that play a factor?
JF: It was a lot of stuff going on all at once, and I have a young child too, so I was dealing with that stuff at home. My head wasn't exactly in the right place. I don't want to take anything away from Burkman, but I wasn't looking at the fight the way I should have been. Even all the way up to the choke, I don't think I took him seriously. That was a big mistake; he's a great fighter and a great athlete, and it was stupid of me to think less of his ability.
I think my mind was probably more on the events that had just taken place rather than the fight in front of me, you know? It's a big shock. You spend your whole life trying to be the best at something, and then you get kicked out of the top organization. It kind of leaves you in a weird position like, ‘now what?'
DD: Is that giving you extra motivation to really go in there and cut a path of destruction, like you did in the UFC when you went undefeated for a very, very long time?
JF: I think it gives me a chance to kind of re-center, readjust and rethink my place and what I was doing in my training, my training habits... everything. I've recently taken a coaching position out in Syracuse, New York, so I'll be living on both coasts. When I'm training for a fight, I'll be out in California, then I'll be back teaching and spreading my knowledge in Syracuse for the rest of the year.
I think that little change is going to help me focus more on what I need to do. I think if you kind of get stuck in one place too long, you start developing bad habits, you start getting into a rut and I think spending some of my year in a different city is going to help me mix it up a little bit.
DD: Is the teaching position at the university or with an MMA gym?
JF: It's called Pacific Health Club, and it's a 90,000 square foot facility. It's the biggest gym, to my knowledge, in North America, maybe the world. It's ridiculous. There are two full sized cages, 8,000 square feet of mat space, and that's just the grappling and MMA area. There's also a fully functioning gym, an indoor track, indoor AstroTurf, a yoga room, dance rooms, massage rooms, tanning beds, saunas, saltwater pools, hot tubs and a full indoor climbing area. It's pretty ridiculous, and it's going to give me the opportunity to train with some of the fighters on the east coast. I feel like it will be a really good opportunity to let me spread out and train with everybody.
I'm going to reach out to train with whoever I can, but I'm also going to try to bring guys up to the gym in Syracuse, just because the facility is so impressive. It would be a huge advantage for anybody to come up there and train for a little while.
I was up there for a month doing the first part of my training camp out there. The people were fantastic. It's got that big city feeling, but a small town vibe to it. Everybody knows each other; everybody has been around for a long time and everybody knows who owns which store on which block, so it's pretty cool.
Part of the reason for me being up there is to kind of begin creating an MMA team for this gym, so right now it's me and Mark Stevens, who was on The Ultimate Fighter season 12, and that's it. We're probably going to hold open tryouts at some point to see who there is in the area that wants to become a fighter; who wants to dedicate themselves to training, learn from me and become a fighter.
DD: Are we going to see some of the university wrestlers getting some training from you over there as well? Is that an opportunity that's on the table?
JF: Possibly. I would love to go and talk to the coach and some of the wrestlers, and recruit from some of those guys, too. I would also like to go and scout out the Pennsylvania state tournament, the New York state tournament, the New Jersey state tournament. I'd like to go to all of these tough wrestling areas and see if there are kids there who really want to become fighters.
DD: Do you plan on taking any of the people from AKA out there?
JF: I'm going to try to get guys to come out to visit, and they'll be able to do seminars and appearances in the area to make some money and get them a free trip. I hope to use their bodies to work with some of the team that we create. You know, my old friend Phil Baroni has a busted wheel, so he might have some time to come out and spend some time with us too.
It's funny, that was one of those things with somebody I wouldn't think I would like from his TV persona, but the second we started hanging out I was like, ‘Oh I love this guy.'
DD: It looks like the WSOF are setting you and Josh Burkman up as a sort of headlining rivalry for the promotion, which I think is a good idea. Is that something which interests you, and is the rubber match something you're looking for?
JF: Yeah, I mean it sucks that I lost that fight, but in reality I think it is kind of a good thing for the organization. It legitimizes the organization, because I was a top 10 guy. I still think I am a top 10 guy, so losing to Burkman put him back on the map as a serious fighter, and brings a lot of respect to the organization. It shows that we're real fighters. We're top 10 guys, we're not cast offs, we're not throwaways, we're the real deal and we're here to fight and beat anybody.
DD: You're not the only top ranked guy that the UFC has cut recently; they cut Yushin Okami as well, and it looks like this is starting to become a bit of a trend. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think it's a dumb move to make, or do you understand it?
JF: Well, I understand the thinking of why they're doing it. They're thinking that the brand is bigger than any fighter, and it doesn't matter who they release because the brand is going to carry its own weight. Guys who keep winning, and win long enough over a period of time, are going to start making real money. The only reason I got paid what I did is because I won, and I won a lot. Most guys don't win as much as I did, and most guys don't make as much money as I did.
When you start getting big checks, they start not liking you. Even though they're not paying great compared to the money that's being made, they still don't want to give those big checks out.
DD: Some fighters have told us that behind the scenes, the people who are involved in the business aspect of the UFC aren't exactly friendly with a lot of the fighters, and the atmosphere can be kind of chilly. On the other hand, WSOF fighters have all told us that the atmosphere is very professional, but also very laid back and friendly. Is that something you have noticed?
JF: Yeah, I feel more and more that the World Series of Fighting is a big team of people together working towards a common goal, rather than a lot of individuals trying to stake out their own little claim, and make their own little greedy amount of money. It's kind of like a unified fight for all of us. All of us together are trying to put on the greatest show possible; from the fighters, to the people picking us up from the airport; from the guys matchmaking, to the guys doing the production crew stuff. I feel like it's a team effort. It's cool, it's a nice feeling. Even though we're going out there trying to beat the crap out of each other, we're all trying to be successful as one unit, and I never really felt that in the UFC.
DD: You're becoming one of the faces of the WSOF, is that something that excites you? That motivates you? Being part of something and being instrumental in helping it grow?
JF: Yeah, it's exciting, but at the same time, I better win a fricking fight. It's not going to do me any good, or them any good, if I'm a has-been, or a bum, and people view me that way. I've got to go out there and smash people. A lot of people.
DD: Speaking of which, you have a fight coming up against Marcelo Alfaya. Tell me what you know about him, and how you envision that fight going.
JF: He's a really good grappler. I've heard a lot of good things about his ground skills, but like with a lot of Brazilians his wrestling and takedowns aren't that great. He ends up brawling quite a bit on his feet, but he's not bad when he's brawling on his feet; he's got a good chin, heavy hands and he throws a good straight right. I'm going to have to be ready to take this fight anywhere. I have to be prepared to throw down on the feet, and I've got to be really ready to defend anything he throws at me on the ground.
DD: I think a lot of people underrate your striking. It's very technically sound; your boxing especially has very few obvious flaws. Is that something you have made a specific effort to work on, or has it just come naturally over the years?
JF: I've made a point to work on everything. I'm trying to improve everything, always. I don't just isolate one thing and ignore everything else, I'm always going through multiple training camps all at once; trying to get my hands going, trying to get my wrestling going, trying to get my Jiu-jitsu and stuff going. I've been doing the sport for 10 or 11 years now, so my striking better look pretty technical and very good. I've been working very hard at it for a long time. I think a lot it is just using my angles and having the confidence to use it more in fights.
DD: If you could give a piece of advice to these up and coming fighters, what would it be?
JF: First thing I would say, and it's going to be a shameless plug, if you're a young fighter and you're serious about the sport, come out and train with me in Syracuse. I'll take you where you want to go. Beyond that, I would say skillset. Focus on the skillset. Don't worry about getting a lot of ring time, don't go out there and fight 10 or 20 amateur fights, get in the gym and spend three years, six days a week, four to eight hours a day just drilling technique over and over and over again, putting chains of techniques together, not just one piece. Then develop those techniques into your game.
Your game is the most important thing for a fighter to have. A lot of guys have a toolbox full of techniques, and they go out there to fight and just throw one tool after another at a guy. They're not really applying a systematic approach to defeating that guy. You need your game. It can be anything; you can be the butt-scooting leg lock guy, that's fine, as long as that's your game and you have an approach for every action and reaction of your opponent. That's what's going to take you to the upper echelon of the fighting game.
DD: Excellent advice. This is the spot for you to give a shout out to your sponsors and tell everyone where to find you on Twitter, Facebook and the web.
JF: I want to give love to AKA for everything they've given me over the years, and I want to give a shout out to Pacific Health Club for the opportunity they have provided to me. I'm looking forward to spending the next year or more with them, helping to build their team. Other than that I have Oak Grove Technologies, who are one of my main sponsors. They have been awesome to me for a number of years.
You can follow me on Twitter @Jonfitchdotnet. I don't have a Facebook, and the last thing I'll say is everyone else should cancel their Facebook, because it's criminally spying on us and it's helping the government spy on us. The owner of that organization is a horrible person who is promoting fracking and putting a lot of money into poisoning our country. Basically, in my opinion, he hates children. Anyone who supports fracking is a child hater. I just want to put that out there. That's my little political outburst.