December, 2002: So many events have taken place in our world since this month. The United States went to war in Iraq and removed the dictator Saddam Hussein. The United States won 36 gold medals at the 2004 Olympics. The NBA went on a downward spiral following a massive brawl between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers.
Same-sex marriages have begun to gain traction. The Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Bob Barker retired from The Price Is Right.
And in the world of mixed martial arts, one man has competed in 16 professional fights without a loss and has gone almost unnoticed to all but the hardcore fan.
That man is Jon Fitch.
Tonight, however, over one million UFC fans are going to see Jon Fitch inside the Octagon against one of the sport's biggest names and one of the pound-for-pound best in Georges St. Pierre. Those who do know Fitch expect nothing but a physical, back-and-forth all-out war.
Fitch has the pedigree the leader of an MMA team would salivate over. He was the captain and four-time letterman of a Big-10 wrestling team (Purdue University).
However, what his teammates and trainers at the renowned American Kickboxing Academy are impressed by is his work ethic and drive to be the best, not his natural talent.
He recently achieved his blackbelt in Guerilla Jiu-jitsu, which is AKA's hybrid training method of jiu-jitsu and judo in an MMA context. He also has added a strong arsenal of slick kickboxing and good footwork on the feet to supplement his superb takedowns and takedown defense.
He's going to need all of these above skills to be working sharply if he wants to have any chance against St. Pierre.
Inside the UFC's octagon, Fitch is 8-0 and has looked spectacular in wins over some of the division's best in Luigi Fiorvanti, Roan Carniero, Thiago Alves, and Diego Sanchez. However, with the exception of the Sanchez fight, his fights have been unadvertised and met with little fanfare and anticipation.
Tonight, that's all going to change, as he gets every mixed martial artists dream: a five-round UFC title fight. If he shocks the casual fan (though maybe not the MMA experts), the UFC's best-kept secret will never be a secret again.