At UFC 100 next weekend Jon Fitch takes on Paulo Thiago, the relatively unknown Brazilian who shocked his teammate Josh Koscheck in his first UFC fight. Here he tells us why he’s not playing along with the revenge storyline in this fight, or any storyline in any fight, for that matter, and he ponders what it might take for him to get the rematch he wants against UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre.
You came out to fight Akihiro Gono right after his epic evening gown entrance. What was that like?
I was backstage right behind him, just a few feet away in the staging tunnel, and I saw these girls in dresses. I was like, ‘Why are the ring girls up here?’ Then I realized, oh shit, it’s Gono and his cornermen. I put my head down and didn’t watch the entrance because I didn’t want to start laughing.
The funniest thing was in between rounds when I look over and see this girl in pantyhose and a little bit of skirt hanging out below a t-shirt running into the Octagon. I was like, ‘What is she doing in the cage?’ Then, again, I realized it was Gono’s corner. They didn’t have time to change. They took off the wigs but just put t-shirts on over the dresses. So that was a little distracting. I told Crazy Bob that I’m going to do that to him next time, put him in a dress.
Did you ever think, ‘Man, if I lose to a guy who came out in a dress I’ll never live it down?’
Nah, I don’t care. I know Gono and he’s a great guy who brings a lot of personality into the sport. He works hard and takes the sport very seriously, but he also knows how to have fun. The sport needs guys like that.
Now you’re fighting Paulo Thiago. That doesn’t seem like a big step up from Gono. More like a step sideways.
It depends on how you look at it. Your casual fans, your newer fans, to them Paulo Thiago has a bigger name than Gono does. They have no idea who Gono is. The guy’s been fighting for fifteen years and has only been finished a handful of times, and yet they say I suck because I didn’t finish him. To those people, Thiago is the guy who knocked out Koscheck and that’s all they know about him. So it’s still beneficial for me. I don’t care what other people outside say about it. The guy’s still in the UFC. If he’s in the UFC, he’s a good fighter.
He didn’t look all that great before landing that one uppercut on Koscheck.
But he’s not known for his stand-up. He’s known for his ground game. What that shows you is he’s got one-punch power and he’s got a good chin and can survive. And we don’t even know what his ground game is like. So it’s a dangerous fight.
Do you think the UFC gave you this fight because of the revenge angle?
I think so. They sometimes try and get me to play that role like some of the other fighters do, talking smack and all that. They even bait me with a guy who beat one of my teammates, but it doesn’t work.
Yeah, you never really get into the pre-fight hype trash talk.
I don’t think that’s what this sport is about. I think if you put two top fighters against each other, that should sell itself. I don’t think you need all the promotion, all the smack-talking. If you put good fighters together, that’s what the sport is about. That should be enough.
Yeah, but I feel like it gets watered down because you see it over and over again. These guys talk all this smack to each other, they hate each other, and then afterwards they’re fine. It’s kind of silly to me. I think fans don’t take those fights seriously anymore. You see it so many times and hear about how these guys hate each other, and at this point it’s just like, yeah, okay. Sure they do. The fans aren’t stupid. They can see through that.
Have you ever felt any animosity toward anyone you’ve ever fought?
No, I’ve only felt like I had points to prove. When I fought [Josh] Burkman I felt like I really had a point to prove. It felt like they thought I was being brought in to lose the fight. I really wasn’t getting much respect from his side. It wasn’t personal, but I felt like I had to prove a point. People ask me, ‘How can you fight a guy and then shake his hand afterwards?’ To me it’s like, we just fought. What else are we going to do after fighting for fifteen minutes? What, fight some more after the fight?
If you’re Nick Diaz, you start a fight in the hospital.
That’s petty to me. I’m in it for the love of the sport. Not for any of that other stuff. I want to know that I’m getting better and that I can kick my ass from the previous day. There’s no point in me kicking everyone else’s ass and then settling for wherever I’m at. If I’m not improving, I could be the best fighter in the world and it wouldn’t matter. I’d never know what heights I could reach.
Who do you like in the GSP/Thiago Alves title fight?
I don’t really like picking fights because I think it ruins watching them. I prefer to just watch and see what happens. I will say though that I want GSP to win because I want a rematch for the title against GSP.
Don’t you think if GSP wins it would be harder for you to get a title shot since you’ve already fought him once?
It all depends. If they feel that it’s a big fight and people are interested in it and it’s going to make a lot of money, then they’ll make it happen. But like with them bringing Vitor [Belfort] back for a title shot against Anderson [Silva]. Vitor’s a good fighter, but what’s he done to deserve a title fight over [Nate] Marquardt? He’s had a great career but I would think Marquardt has done more to earn that fight. But it will make a lot of money and probably more money than a rematch with Marquardt, so that’s why they’re doing it.
By that logic, wouldn’t it help you to try and hype up a potential rematch to generate more fan interest?
It’s just not me. I’ve chosen to take a humble path and not focus so much on money. Because it’s true, this sport pays people to be arrogant loudmouths, but it’s just not in me. I respect the sport so much and think something so much better could evolve from this sport, like we could save the world with mixed martial arts. I think the attitudes some people have about this sport are selling it short.
There’s at least a perception that the UFC was a little upset with you over the video game licensing deal and that’s why they pushed your last fight to the dark portion of the card. Does that bother you?
I don’t even try to think about it. As long as I’m getting good fights against quality opponents, I don’t care.
So it doesn’t matter to you whether people see your fights?
I’m from a wrestling background. I’m used to wrestling in a gym in front of fifteen people. That’s not the motivation for me to do what I do. Whether there are ten thousand people out there or ten, you’re going to get the same performance out of me.
Thanks, Jon. Anything else to add.