Jon Fitch has switched up his training ahead of WSOF 24. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Jon Fitch’s last fight couldn’t have gone much worse.
Fitch was submitted via kneebar in just 90 seconds by Rousimar Palhares in a bout for the World Series of Fighting welterweight title at WSOF 16 in December 2014. Not only did Fitch come up short inside the cage, he also failed the California State Athletic Commission’s pre-fight drug testing.
Now, almost a year later, Fitch is trying to make a comeback. The road begins with a fight against former UFC middleweight contender Yushin Okami at WSOF 24 on Oct. 17 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.
Fitch has been a vocal critic of performance-enhancing drugs, but in a recent interview with Sherdog.com, he did not want to address the positive test due to his participation in an ongoing class-action lawsuit against the UFC.
“I’ve been advised by my lawyer that I shouldn’t be speaking about things like that right now,” Fitch told Sherdog.com. “I’m involved in the lawsuit and I’d rather not have things I’ve said be brought back and used in that case. I’m just getting ready to fight.”
Fitch, who has been a mainstay on the American Kickboxing Academy roster for many years, said he has branched out in preparation for this fight and that it should pay dividends.
“Camp has been going well,” said the 37-year-old, who is just 3-4-1 in his last eight fights. “This is the first time where I’ve traveled for camp and it’s worked out well. I was in Phoenix for WSOF 23 and got to go to Power MMA and do some training with Ryan Jimmo and C.B. Dollaway. Getting out there and seeing some different people has given me a good perspective.”
Like Fitch, Okami is coming a disappointing loss in a title fight along with a lengthy layoff. Okami was knocked out by David Branch in the third round of their WSOF middleweight championship fight in November 2014. This fight will mark 6-foot-2 Okami’s debut at 170 pounds, and while Fitch knows he may not be the bigger fighter on fight night, he believes speed will be key in beating Okami.
“First off, it’s surprising he’s coming down to 170,” said Fitch. “He’s a big 185-pounder, so I know he’s going to be super strong and imposing, but I feel like I have more tools in my arsenal and I have to be a lot faster. I’ve been training with a lot of fast guys, so I think speed is going to kill in this fight.”
With the WSOF welterweight belt currently vacant, Fitch feels a win would put him squarely in the title picture and said that, should the situation arise, he’d be willing to fight Jake Shields, with whom he has trained in the past.
“It all comes down to selling tickets and needing a champion,” said Fitch. “Promotions need an established champion, and that’s where WSOF is right now. We are all No. 1 contenders for that belt. We all are in a position to fight for that title. All of us are coming off losses. [Okami] lost to a guy who has two title belts and the other two lost to a guy who’s been accused of cheating, so it's a weird situation. [Palhares] was suspended by the WSOF, but to me it should be the commission doing the suspending, not the promotion, and I think that’s a major problem. I think that’s why the commission failed to act from the beginning.
“[Shields] and I are friends and we train a lot together, but we would fight for that strap,” Fitch added. “We’ve known we might fight each other for a while. I’m just surprised it took so long to come around. We train together, but we’re not teammates. Things change when you’re teammates, but if the title is on the line, we’d fight.”
To get to that title fight, Fitch knows he must beat Okami, and Fitch is determined to show he can again be a force at 170 pounds.
“If I want to win, I have to fight like me,” said Fitch. “I need to fight my way and the best way I know how. I still think I’m one of the best fighters in the world. People have written me off, but I’m going to make people believe in me and I’m going to start with Okami. I feel like I’m better than I was 10 years ago. People may not take me seriously, but I’m going to show where I am.”