Jon Fitch may have celebrated his 40th birthday last month, but he’s not slowing down. The longtime welterweight standout made headlines recently when he became the latest free-agent acquisition for Bellator MMA, having made the move after a successful run as the World Series of Fighting/Professional Fighters League welterweight champion.
Appearing this week on The MMA Hour, Fitch explained his decision by saying that his time with the PFL had simply run its course. Fitch had already fought virtually every quality welterweight on the promotion’s roster, and the format shift that took place when WSOF re-branded into the more tournament-based structure of the PFL did not appeal to Fitch as much as other options out there within the MMA landscape.
“This is prizefighting and I’m in the business of winning titles,” Fitch said Monday on The MMA Hour. “And I think there’s more competition and better people to fight in Bellator, and I just wanted to chase another title. It was more appealing to me to jump ship and go to Bellator and track down another title, than it was to enter a tournament, fight five times in six months, and win a title and then lose it the same night.
“I’m in the business to fight the best guys in the world. I’m not here just to talk trash and be on TV. I want to challenge myself, I want to fight the best, and it’s one of the reasons why I kinda wanted to go to Bellator,” Fitch added. “There’s not really many people, or anybody, left for me to fight in the PFL. Jake Shields is probably the best guy. I beat (Yushin) Okami already. There’s not a lot for more me there.”
Fitch, a one-time UFC title challenger, signed with WSOF in 2013 after a tremendously successful 14-3-1 run inside the Octagon. Fitch went on to win six of his eight contests under the WSOF/PFL umbrella, defeating the likes of Shields, Okami, Brian Foster, Joao Zeferino, and more, while also becoming the promotion’s welterweight champion and defending his strap twice. Fitch has not lost since a controversial Dec. 2014 outing against Rousimar Palhares and currently rides a four-fight win streak.
After not competing since last June, Fitch said PFL officials respected his wishes and the split was ultimately amicable.
“They have to honor the contracts,” Fitch said. “And there were some parts in my contracts that — the thing I was most worried about was not being active. It’s the worst thing for a fighter, to be healthy and ready to fight, and then not be active and not be able to fight. So I had some provisions in my contract that said they had to offer me certain fights in certain time frames. They failed to do so, so I just held them to the contract.
“They either needed to provide the fights, pay me for the fights they didn’t give me, or release me. And they chose to release me.”
Having recently moved back to San Jose, Calif., and rejoined his old team at American Kickboxing Academy — a team with which Bellator president Scott Coker has close ties — Fitch indicated that Bellator felt like the natural next step of his career.
“It’s my hometown, they do a lot of shows here, and I really like Scott Coker. I think he’s the best promoter in the business right now,” Fitch said.
“We’re friends, we’ve talked, we’ve hung before, I’ve had dinner with the man. I know people who worked with him intimately and have for many years, people I’m friends with, and nobody has anything negative to say about him.
“I think he’s been doing this for a very long time, and he’s done it very well. I think he puts together a better show, and I think if it wasn’t for the UFC’s monopoly, he would probably be dominating the market,” Fitch added.
Fitch is now scheduled to make his promotional debut against welterweight knockout artist Paul Daley on May 12 at Bellator 199.
Daley has established himself as one of the top 170-pounders on the Bellator roster, having won four of six fights and knocked out ex-UFC contender Lorenz Larkin in brutal fashion in his last outing. Daley’s only losses in Bellator have come against the division’s current and previous champion — Rory MacDonald and Douglas Lima — but Fitch is confident that he has the skill set to defeat the hard-hitting Brit.
“I think I’m a bad stylistic matchup for everybody,” Fitch said. “That should be my nickname, ‘Bad Stylistic Matchup.’ There’s not too many people who are like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a great matchup for them against Jon Fitch.’ I have too many tools at my disposal and I’m a cardio machine, and I’m just meaner than most people. It’s hard to beat mean.”
A win over Daley would propel Fitch immediately into Bellator title mix at 170 pounds, and while he doesn’t want to look too far ahead, Fitch sees a potential road to a fight against MacDonald before the year is done.
“I don’t want to look past Paul Daley. He’s tough, and there’s other tough guys out there,” Fitch said. “But I think by the end of the year, if things go well, if I’m healthy, if [MacDonald] is healthy, it’s a possibility for sure.”