clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

For Jon Fitch, finding new challenges isn't a taxing situation

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Every spring, as Californians fill out their state tax forms, many stop and ponder one of the highest such rates in the nation, and whether the size of the check they cut to Sacramento outweighs the state's many charms. At some point, they'll at least toy with the thought of moving to Nevada, where the income tax rate sits at zero.

Most California residents just sigh and drop their check in the mail. But Jon Fitch has always been one to march to the beat of his own drummer. When asked why he up and moved to the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson in recent months after being affiliated with San Jose's American Kickboxing Academy as long as anyone can remember, the World Series of Fighting welterweight contender mentioned his tax first and foremost.

"I got tired of giving 13 percent of my pay to the state every year," Fitch told "Partly it's because I know I have a limited window to make money in the fight business and I need to save as much for my future as I can, and partly because I just don't feel the state of California is giving its citizens enough service for what they take from people. So it's a practical thing and a moral thing."

Fitch isn't exactly on his way to the poor house, since most Californians pay 9.3 percent and the 13 percent rate is reserved for the highest earners. But that's not the point. Fitch has a well-deserved reputation as one of the sport's straightest shooters, one who stands up for his beliefs and forges his own path.

Which brings us to to the other half of the reason for Fitch's big move, which was as much about sense as it was dollars. As the 36-year old's career hits the backstretch, he's looking for an opportunity to transition into coaching, in a manner fitting his vision for the sport.

That's become increasingly difficult to do at AKA, which is loaded with names from trainer Javier Mendes to heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez to undefeated Daniel Cormier to middleweight contender Luke Rockhold.

While there's no ill will between AKA and Fitch, the gym's longtime former captain, Fitch prefers the chance to work with a blank canvas.

"I have no regrets and no bad feelings over leaving," Fitch said. "It was a big, big part of my life for such a long time and I'll always appreciate what they meant to me. I wish those guys the best. It's just, there's so many top-level guys there that they didn't need me."

Fitch believes he's found the right spot at Nick Blomgren's One Kicks in Las Vegas. While the gym is primarily known for striking arts like Muay Thai and boxing, it's been represented in MMA by the likes of Stephan Bonnar, Phil Baroni, and the Njokuani brothers, and it is looking to ramp up presence in the sport. Fitch has signed on as the gym's lead MMA coach.

"That's what really interests me in the long run," Fitch said. "The ability to give back, the ability to pass on what you know, I really thrive on that sort of connection. That's the sort of thing that keeps you connected long after you stop fighting. I have the opportunity to really put my stamp on things here and it's pretty exciting."

Of course, we're talking about Fitch's options here as if his fighting days are over. But that's far from the case. Last year, Fitch became the most infamous case of UFC payroll-trimming when he was cut after a single loss to Demian Maia. (As you might imagine from the straighforward Fitch, he has his opinions on the implications of the UFC's Reebok deal, which we went into last week).

But Fitch's career is still very much alive. He carries a two-fight win streak into his matchup with WSOF welterweight champion Rousimar Palhares on Saturday night in Sacramento, in what's turned into the most-talked-about WSOF bout since Nick Newell vs. Justin Gaethje back in July.

Palhares, of course, is known mainly for two things: 1. Leglocks; and 2. Unacceptable behavior in the cage, including not letting go of said leglocks after opponents have surrendered.

Fitch is well aware of what's he potentially getting into.

"Look, I'm a little hesitant to call him ‘nuts,' because, I mean, we're a group of people who strip almost naked and fight in a cage in front of thousands of people," Fitch said. "We've all got something a little off about us."

"Palhares is one of the very last of the specialists in this sport," he continued. "He has one thing he does really, really well, and it's on me not to get trapped in it. Sometimes this sport is simple than it seems."

While Fitch has proven that he's not afraid of change, one thing has remained constant: He's still driven by the notion of winning a championship. In his only other major title shot, he came short against then-UFC champ Georges St-Pierre. Maybe the WSOF title isn't exactly the UFC belt, but through all his ups and downs in a crazy business, Fitch admits the idea of wrapping a title belt around his waist means as much to him now as it did when he was first recruited over from the amateur wrestling community.

"That's the reason you get into this sport," Fitch said. "I'm into this for the pure sport aspect of MMA, not the sport aspect. To win a title is still my driving force."

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting