With UFC 87 cemented firmly in the history books, Jon Fitch (21-3) stands at a crossroad. The Indiana-born ultimate fighter rode into Seek and Destroy‘s main event unbeaten in the Octagon after eight fights in hopes of capturing Georges St-Pierre’s welterweight crown. He had all the skills and tools necessary deny the champion his first successful title defense.
But on that Saturday, the champion would fight the better fight.
Despite being battered for the majority of the 25 minute round, Fitch never quit, refused to buckle under the pressure of being the main attraction and gave St-Pierre all he could handle. Even in defeat, Fitch won; gaining legions of new fans as a result of his performance.
FightNews recently caught up with one American Kickboxing Academy’s best to get his thoughts on the fight, what went wrong and what the future holds.
It’s been a little over a week since the fight, how’s everything been going?
Jon Fitch: Things are good; all of the feelings are gone. I’ve gotten a chance to relax and spend time with my family. I went back and watched the fight and started putting together some stuff and thought about what needed to be changed and what I need to do. I’ll be back in the gym probably next week.
After watching the fight, what are your thoughts on the way it turned out?
I made two or three mistakes that ended up costing me… I took a lot of damage. That leg kick I threw in the first round that allowed [St-Pierre] to throw that right hand. When you take that much damage, it’s kind of like an uphill battle the rest of the way.
I wanted to ask you about that. I think a lot of other welterweights would’ve quit at that point. What kept you going after you took that shot?
I wanted to fuckin win [laughs]! There was no way I was going to go out like that. As long as I had breath in my lungs I was gonna fight and try to win. It sucks looking back at it and it totally changed my frame of mind and what I was thinking throughout the fight. I look back at that moment a lot like “what if I hadn’t thrown that stupid kick and not taken that punch?” I’ll have to get back there and try it again.
In the opening of round one, St-Pierre went for an immediate takedown. Did that surprise you?
A little bit. But after he did it, I thought that I should’ve known he’d try to do that. We got the feeling that he’d try to stand with us at first. It was a mistake to come in there and think that he wouldn’t try to grapple. That’s the problem when you have guys that are as good as they are these days. They’re difficult to prepare for?
You seemed to recover from the damage you took in round one and looked much better in the second. How were you able to come back from the first?
After I got hit, I got put into a zone. And it wasn’t a good zone; I was thinking to myself that I had to finish him to win. I wasn’t thinking clearly after that first knock down. So to just come back into it and get points and get back into a winning position, it could’ve gone differently. Instead, I was head hunting after that knockdown and it was a mistake. I wasn’t listening and was in my own little world.
Did you feel overly cautious after that opening round?
No. I think I spent too much time on the bottom. I did a really good job defending after the takedown. I didn’t take much damage at all. I should’ve gotten up quicker or shouldn’t have stayed in guard that long. There are a million things that I wish I could change in that fight.
In round three, GSP caught you with a head kick and followed that up with a knee, but you still kept coming… is that something you go over in practice or did instincts kick in at that point?
That’s just my style, how I operate and how I’ve been as an athlete and competitor. Keep moving forward and putting pressure on your opponent. A good offense is a good defense, you know?
There were a couple of moments in the fight where GSP was bleeding, was there ever a point that you felt you had him hurt during the bout?
In the fourth when I landed the knee and cut him. The gash over his eye was pretty big and thought there was a good possibility that I could end the fight with that cut. I started throw more right hands. But you can’t rely on those cuts to get you a win.
At one point, you secured top position, was his guard better than you thought it would be?
No, it was what I thought it would be. It was still mental; I panicked from being knocked down and felt like I was losing the fight and never settled into a position where I could do some damage. I was panicked and flustered. I think I lost out a lot from that position because of that.
You all spent a great deal of time talking after the fight; what was that conversation like?
He told me that I was the toughest guy that he’s fought so far and thanked me for giving him such a good fight. HE also told me that I’d come back stronger from the loss like he did against Hughes or Serra. I thanked him for taking the fight with me and giving me the opportunity to fight someone like him. I told him I’d be back for him in the future.
What’s next for Jon Fitch?
I’d like to fight again before the years out. Chicago’s not too far from my home town, it’s about two and half hours away, so I’d love to get on that card. I’m not the boss, I don’t get to make the calls so I’m not sure when I’ll fight again.
One final question: A lot of people didn’t really know who Jon Fitch was before the fight, how’s the response been from the fans?
I’ve got a lot of support right now. People were impressed with my abilities and the fact I stayed in there even though I was hurt. I turned a lot of heads and got a lot of new fans from this fight.