Somewhere, deep down inside, Dana White grudgingly respects Jon Fitch for what he can do inside the Octagon.
He's a smart guy. He's got to know that Jon Fitch is the second-best welterweight in the world, just as he knows that Fedor Emelianenko was once the greatest heavyweight in the world.
The problem for White in regards to both of those fighters is the same: admitting how good they are might just be bad for business.
In fairness to White, there are good reasons for him to not appreciate Fitch.
He refuses to fight his teammate, Josh Koscheck, in what might be one of the most marketable fights possible for Fitch. And, Fitch was one of those at American Kickboxing Academy who originally refused to sign over his video game image rights.
But aside from those specific instances, Fitch presents a much more pressing problem when it comes to the UFC's bottom line.
Fitch has never been a great draw.
He makes more marketable fighters look bad when he fights them due to his ability to shut them down.
There's little demand for a rematch with Georges St-Pierre given the way St-Pierre pulverized him the last time.
The UFC brass no doubt feels that if Fitch becomes champion in St-Pierre's absence, he'll be an abysmal draw.
And whenever Fitch fights, Dana White's phone explodes with tweets from meatheads who find Fitch boring.
It is without question that for these reasons White's reluctant respect for Fitch's skills and accomplishments does not manifest itself in a positive way. One of the only benefits of keeping Fitch around in the UFC is that it prevents Fitch from becoming another Matt Lindland-esque poster boy for the anti-UFC movement.
Following Fitch's third round destruction of B.J. Penn, White insisted that Penn had won two rounds and should have won the decision.
"I didn't think it was a draw," White told ESPN.com. "Personally, I scored the first two rounds for Penn and had him winning the fight. There's no doubt B.J. got pounded in the third round, but that wasn't a 10-8 round."
Fightmetric had Fitch out-landing Penn 149 to two. Compustrike didn't count that many strikes, giving a tally for Fitch of 134 to ZERO. Fitch's 149 strikes landed is the second-highest one-round tally in UFC history according to Fightmetric.
Maybe if Fitch had landed 200 strikes, White would have scored the round 10-8. We'll never know.
White went further, though, by stating that Fitch, in no way, has earned a title shot with this performance.
"He just fought a 155-pound guy and went to a draw with him and in my opinion, he lost the first two rounds—and he's crying for a title shot? You've got to get in there and decisively beat people. You have to have fans clamoring for you to fight for the title."
If beating Penn is only impressive at lightweight, then why did White make this fight in the first place?
This is B.J. Penn we're talking about. Penn has only been stopped twice in his entire career, and only by the two most decorated welterweights in MMA history.
Even in the fight Matt Hughes beat Penn, he lost two rounds to Penn and looked far worse than Fitch ever did against him.
Lyoto Machida couldn't stop him at heavyweight and arguably lost rounds to Penn.
In fact, aside from the two fights against St-Pierre and Hughes, nobody has ever given Penn a worse beating than Fitch.
Fitch landed more strikes against Penn in three rounds than Frankie Edgar did in 10 rounds against Penn. Fitch also absorbed fewer strikes and fewer power strikes than Edgar did in Edgar's five-round domination of Penn in their rematch.
What was Fitch expected to do? Punt Penn's head out of the Octagon?
Maybe he was just expected to lose.
In any case, White's dismissal of Fitch seems designed to salvage Penn's marketability, while keeping Fitch away from a potentially unmarketable title reign should St-Pierre vacate the title.
But in the end, Dana White is right.
Fitch didn't earn a title shot by defeating B.J. Penn.
He supposedly earned a title shot when he defeated Thiago Alves for the second time last summer.
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