Last month, UFC president Dana White gave his take on 2012's string of high-profile injury fight fallouts. White said big-time mixed martial arts gyms would be best served following a model similar to boxing's major-fight approach, in which camps are built around one fighter.
To a degree, UFC welterweight Jon Fitch disagrees with his boss's assessment. His gym, San Jose's American Kickboxing Academy, has been among the sport's most successful. AKA's most recent victory, of course, came when Cain Velasquez regained the UFC heavyweight title from Junior dos Santos, in large part due to help from teammate and fellow heavyweight Daniel Cormier.
Speaking to reporters in Las Vegas at UFC 155, Fitch said MMA is best suited to team preparation, but that big-time gyms need to rethink their approach to training on a day-in, day-out basis.
"There's not enough money in this sport to [design a camp around one fighter]," said Fitch. "We need a team, we have to have a team to be successful in this sport. There's no other way to do it. I don't know anyone who's achieved success and maintained success solo in this sport for any amount of time."
Instead, Fitch sees a need for elite camps to adjust the balance between sparring and drilling. According to Fitch, they've already adopted such a mindset at AKA.
"Some things we need to change," he said. "We're drilling way more now. You get more out of, you know, you go three five-minute rounds of just hard grappling and wrestling, and you may only take four or five shots and you get two takedowns in that five-minute go. Well, if you're just drilling, you can hit 150 double-legs in that five-minute time. You're going to get way more out of that drilling all the double legs than you will get out of going at each other. And that kind of mindset is a little bit more what we're trying to embrace at AKA."
AKA's new focus is paying Fitch dividends so far. Fresh off picking up Fight of the Night honors for his UFC 153 win over Erick Silva in October, Fitch returns at UFC 156 for a consequential welterweight showdown with Demian Maia, a big change from two years riddled with injury and inactivity.
"Things are great," Fitch said. "Listen, I was worried about finances a little bit. I'm fighting regularly, it helps. When you only fight once a year, it's hard on your bank account, but being active is nice, getting big fights is nice, and being put on big cards like the one in February is nice. "
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Heavyweight title fallout
@BooneCowan: Is it unfair to view JDS & Cain as even, regardless of them being 1-1 against each other. Cain just got caught?
Actually, I think calling them even after two fights is right on the money. Both Cain Velasquez-Junior dos Santos bouts turned on monstrous first-round punches. The flip side of arguing Velasquez just got caught is that dos Santos was able to finish his foe after landing the big hand, while Velasquez couldn't finish dos Santos. It's probably not unreasonable to assume that next time out, dos Santos won't be so overly concerned about the takedown that he leaves himself as wide-open as he did at UFC 155. Granted, the X-factor in all this is how JDS responds to taking such a wicked five-round beating. But all else being equal, I still think if you match up Cain and Junior 10 times, dos Santos scores five knockouts and Velasquez outwrestles him five times.
@ThatSeanMooe: If Cain beats Overeem, JDS, and then possibly Werdum, who do you see as a possible heavyweight title contender moving forward?
Man, that's quite an "if," considering no one in the history of the UFC heavyweight title, which traces back to Ken Shamrock and the Superfight title in 1995, has ever successfully defended the belt more than twice. But to play along: Considering how infrequently the UFC heavyweight belt is defended (not counting interim titles, there haven't been three heavyweight title fights in a year since 2006), given the amount of time it would take for Velasquez to defend his title three times and then prepare for a fourth title defense, maybe by then, Stefan Struve will be well on his way to reaching his goal of fighting in the UFC 10 billion times (or whatever the number was) and finally in position to get a title shot.
@rodgenge: What if the Daniel Cormier hype train derails ... Then what ??? Just blame the UFC jitters???
For some reason, I heard this tweet in a "Terrance and Philip" voice. Anyway ... if my prediction that Daniel Cormier will win a UFC title in 2013 goes bust, I'll just pretend I never made the pick, but you'll forever have your proof on how much smarter you are than the media.
Manhoef to the UFC?
@bionuce: Melvin Manhoef in the UFC? Did you see his NYE performance?
I did. That knockout knee against Denis Kang was pretty awesome. But, I think we have to see Melvin win a few more fights before he'd be considered for another shot in the big show. He has losses against the likes of Gegard Mousasi, Paulo Filho, Robbie Lawler and Tim Kennedy. And Kang isn't the same guy in 2013 as he was on his way up. The Manhoef loss was Kang's fourth in his past five fights. The 36-year-old Manhoef has won three in a row and he's on the right track in terms of rebuilding his career. But he needs to keep winning over an increasing level of competition if he's going to get another shot at the big time.
Who will lose?
@elcujorino: which champion do you see losing his or her belt first and who is the challenger most likely to do so?
I was asked something similar in the last edition of Fightweets, and like most of the MMA media, I blithely dismissed the idea dos Santos could lose to Velasquez, so you have to take this for what it's worth. But since technically I was asked who would lose in 2013 and dos Santos lost in 2012, I'll stick with my original conclusion Aldo has the biggest immediate challenge ahead of him in Frankie Edgar.
UFC fighter rankings
@Scottlevesque: Should the UFC provide its own fighter rankings so, in theory, there's a linear progression for a No. 1 contender?
In theory they could, but in practice, you get the feeling that if they did, you'd go to UFC.com, click on "rankings," and see Chael Sonnen would No. 1 at middleweight, and at welterweight, Johny Hendricks would be No. 2 behind Nick Diaz. So I'm not sure an official UFC rankings system would change anything.
@SoozieCuzie: If wearing masks is the low tier and judging is the top, what mid-tier change would you like to see? Me: holding the fence.
Ummm ... I'm not sure what Soozie is asking here, and she didn't respond to my return tweet asking for clarification. Are you saying you want to see masked fighters constantly grab at the fence? That would be pretty terrible.
Seriously, though, I'd actually like to see referees start docking points for fence-grabbing infractions. We've had one too many moments like Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes, where Aldo grabbed the fence to prevent a takedown, then soon thereafter broke free and finished the fight with a flying knee. Does Aldo probably win the fight regardless? Yes. Does he finish that fight with a KO knee with one second left in the round if the fence grab is called? Highly unlikely.
So yeah, Sooz. Fixing judging is a top-tier priority. Getting refs to enforce fouls as written in the rulebook is a medium priority. But you're on your own with the masks.
@christopher_kit: feeling good for another year of two men in pants punching each other in the face?
Are guys fighting in pants now? Or is this a British thing?
Mad about Dana
@christopher_kit: If I wanted to complain about Dana White who do I need to speak to?
Have you ever seen Dana's twitter? Not only does he respond to fans directly, but there's a reasonable chance that if you word your tweet right and catch him in the right mood, you, too, can be on the receiving end of his next profane tirade. Give it a try and tell me how it goes.
What if Liz Carmouche wins?
@jaredtwitt: What do you think will happen if Ronda Rousey loses her first fight in the UFC?
I think Dana's head will explode at cageside.