San Jose ’s adopted son Jon Fitch will make his much anticipated return to the octagon on Saturday, August 7.
The UFC 117 event will take place roughly 40 miles north of his humble abode, at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.
In 2003, Fitch moved to the west coast from Indiana with the goal of dedicating himself to the sport of mixed martial arts and turning it into a prolonged career.
His hard work, coupled with the world class training he has received at the American Kickboxing Academy, has transformed him into one of the elite fighters in the world.
“From the beginning it has been a great experience. The Bay Area has welcomed me. I feel proud to be able to represent the area and everybody here. The people have never been anything but good to me and shown me love,” said Fitch.
Appropriately, the forthcoming event has brought a wave of requests from family, friends, and those affiliated with the gym.
“I bought 60 tickets myself. This is probably the most personal friends that I have had that I know are coming to a fight. All the support is huge. Knowing that they are all behind me is a good feeling.”
Many fighters would tend to argue that home field advantage in MMA is a non sequitur as all external factors wash away once the cage door closes, regardless of zip code.
Fitch, however, is convinced there are tangible advantages.
“When I leave the state to fight it is hard to find the food that I need or that I like. Being here it will be easy to get everything I need. I’m busy with a lot of press stuff and have to stay in the hotel. I can have the food brought to me. I can also sleep in my own bed a few extra nights. It’s definitely an advantage.”
The antagonist in the latest chapter of the Fitch chronicles is a familiar foe in Brazilian striker Thiago Alves.
The pair fought once already back in June 2006 when they were both up-and-coming prospects. Fitch came away with a victory recording a second round technical knockout.
“The fight was so long ago it is hard to take anything from. Even if we had never fought before it would not be smart of me to look at a fight of an opponent from four or five years ago and try to take something away from it. We grow so much in this sport, so fast. You need to be looking at the last three or four fights of somebody you are fighting.”
Predictably, Fitch has remained coy about his game plan heading into the rematch. When asked what he needed to do to be successful in the fight he simply said, “I definitely have to take his knees and his leg kicks out of the picture. Those are his strongest weapons.”
He does not have to venture far to see the effects of Alves’ Muay Thai attack. He could simply pop in the tape of his teammate Josh Koscheck’s UFC 90 fight with Alves in which his offensive wrestling was nullified due to the damage sustained from the aforementioned standup arsenal.
If Fitch is successful in his quest to defeat Alves he will propel himself one step closer to a potential rematch with current welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, who defeated him via unanimous decision at UFC 87.
In addition to preparing diligently for his fight, Fitch has another important day circled on his calendar.
He will wed long time girlfriend Michele Cao on September 4, just 28 days after the fight.
“I’ve only had to do like one percent of the planning and preparation. My fiancé is an amazing planner. She thrives on organizing and putting things together. She has been great handling all that," Fitch said.
What has Fitch been responsible for, specifically?
“I had to pick out the tuxedoes and the car we are going to be driving in after the ceremony. Of course, I picked out a sweet Rolls Royce limousine.”
To his credit, he has also been on call for emotional support even though it will not show up on any wedding checklist.
“I have had to basically support her and calm her when she gets stressed out from all the planning. I actually had to take her phone away from her a couple times, turn her computer off, and make her sit down and do nothing for fifteen minutes.”
He continued, “I cannot wait for it (the planning) to be over with. I just want to be married. I’m excited to be married. I’m getting older. I’m hoping to have kids in the next two years.”
“No pressure at all for me.”
On a number of fronts, evidently.
*** Photo courtesy of VegasNews.com