Jon Fitch has taken a ton of heat over the years for his fighting style and inability to finish fights. Rather than take it as constructive criticism though, Fitch has always argued that winning, and not how it is accomplished, is what matters most. To him, the sport of MMA is as simple as determining whose style of martial arts is the best. Fitch elaborated on that point and expressed his frustration with fans who don’t always find the purity of the sport entertaining in a recent interview with Sherdog.
“A fight is a fight. We fight to find out who’s the best, whose the best style is. The whole point of UFC 1 was to find out what style was the most effective and whose is the best, and I think we’ve gotten away from just styles, you know, jiu-jitsu or boxing or whatever, and we’ve gotten into games, like what kind of game is dominant, who’s going to apply which types of pieces from each style in their game to make it dominant. And I think that’s exciting and fun to watch, and if people don’t think that’s exciting and fun to watch, then I don’t think they’re a fan of MMA. I think they’re a pro wrestling fan and I think they’re a kung fu movie fan, and that’s what they want to see. I think they want to see pro wrestling or kung fu movies, and I don’t think that we should dumb down the sport to make that small percentage of people happy. I don’t think it makes sense. I don’t like soccer, but I don’t go on forums all day and bitch and moan about how they don’t use their hands.”
As Dana White explained to Ariel Helwani yesterday though, it’s not that simple when you’re asking people to spend their money on your product. Transcription via Fight Opinion:
“People can think pro-wrestling or whatever… The problem with Jon Fitch is, you know, you hear this same thing from everybody about Jon Fitch. ‘If I want to fall asleep and I can’t get to sleep at night, I’ll put in a Jon Fitch fight.’ You know, and… whatever you think, Jon Fitch is one of the best 170 pounders in the world and, yes, he’s in the hunt for the title again. But everybody, I mean, find one person that will tell you that they love a Jon Fitch fight, it’s the most exciting thing they’ve ever seen and they just get so excited for it. So, when you say that you have a fight like (Donald) Cerrone and (Nate) Diaz on the card and a guy with a record like [Fitch's] is on and people aren’t jumping out of their seats for that fight, you know, I think Jon needs to have a little bit of a, you know, he’s got to be a little honest with himself and have a little bit of a reality check when he talks about stuff like that.”
Personally, I think Fitch’s view on the sport is a little too idealistic. Sure, mixed martial arts, and more specifically, the UFC was developed with the intention of finding out which fighting style is the best (or from the founder’s POV, proving that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is the best), but at the end of the day, MMA doesn’t exist, at least not on the level it does today, unless people want to see the fights so badly they’re willing to pay for them. Some of the best fights have ended in decisions, but for the most part fans want to see exciting fights culminating in dramatic finishes. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what gets our heart racing and our blood pumping. It’s what we pay for. That doesn’t mean the sport needs to become pro wrestling, a kung-fu movie or “dumbed down.” It just means it needs to be exciting, and sorry, but grinding away at opponents for endless rounds just isn’t.
Image via Daniel Herbertson for MMA Fighting