There is little disputing Jon Fitch's status as one of the best welterweight fighters in the world.
Since joining the UFC in 2005, Fitch has a record of 11-1, with his only loss coming to Georges St-Pierre in 2008.
After the loss to GSP, Fitch regrouped and he has won his last three fights to work his way back to the top of the division. He'll face Thiago Alves this Saturday night in what could turn out to be a fight to determine the next challenger for the welterweight title.
While Fitch is a top fighter in his division, some have criticized him repeatedly for his inability to end fights. They see him as a good fighter that uses the "lay-and-pray" strategy to win his fights, instead of trying to finish his opponents.
He spoke to Bleacher Report recently, and among other things, he shared his thoughts on fans that continue to find flaws in his game.
"I view them as fair-weather fans," Fitch said exclusively to Bleacher Report. "They aren't mixed martial arts fans. They want to see K-1 kickboxing with small gloves and not MMA."
"I'm always working to finish fights. There are two guys in the fight, and if the other guy is looking to just survive, it's hard to finish."
Fitch doesn't just blame the fans for this behavior of constantly looking for the knockout. He feels the fighters and promoters play just as big of a role.
"Promoters and fighters are dumbing down the sport to appease those fans. Those fans won't be there for the long haul and will turn their back on the sport as soon as they find the next big thing."
"I think referees standing fighters up too soon is one of the dumbest things that has been done recently. They need to let the fighters work on the ground, and not be so quick to bring the fighters back to their feet."
Fitch knows as well as anyone that styles make fights. The clash of styles between he and Thiago Alves is tailor-made for a good fight.
Although the two have fought in the past, Fitch doesn't feel he can take anything from their first encounter to help him this time around.
"I haven't looked at a tape from our first fight. Thiago is so much better now than he was then, it's basically like I'm fighting a new guy. That fight was four years ago, and we are both better all-around fighters since then."
"I've taken more from his fights with GSP, Kos (Josh Koscheck), and Matt Hughes to study him and build a strategy for our fight."
Some people think that the winner of the Josh Koscheck-Paul Daley fight will be in line for the next title shot, but Fitch thinks that should he win, he deserves another shot at the title.
"I think that I've done enough to prove myself worthy of a title shot if I can beat Thiago Alves. Others might disagree but I feel I've put in the work and effort to be at the top of the division again."
If Fitch can beat Alves, he already knows who he wants to face for the title.
"In a perfect world, I get to fight GSP for the title. I'd take a title shot with whoever has it, but I want a re-match with GSP. That's ideally what I want, to fight GSP holding the belt."
There has been a lot of talk over the past several months about St-Pierre possibly moving up divisions and competing as a middleweight. While many are in favor of such a move, Fitch isn't one of them.
"It would bother me a lot," said Fitch, when asked how he felt about a possible GSP move. "It would suck, it would be heart-breaking. That's the fight I want, that's the fight I want for the title. In my dream, that's the guy I beat for the strap. I wouldn't want it any other way."
"If he did leave, I'd go after the strap and then chase him. I need to avenge that loss."
Jon Fitch has reached the elite level of fighters in the UFC.
A win over Thiago Alves only cements his place as the second best fighter in the division. Regardless of whether or not he receives the next title shot, Fitch will be a mainstay in the division for years to come and a constant threat to whoever is holding the welterweight title.
If he has it his way, GSP will have the belt and the two will square off for a second fight sometime this summer. Fitch is hoping for and expects much different results than their first fight.
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