Jon Fitch never knows what’s coming next.
Most professional athletes don’t like to look past their upcoming competition — Mike McCarthy isn’t answering Super Bowl questions right now — but when you ask Fitch where a win over Johny Hendricks at UFC 141 on Friday would put him in the currently Georges St. Pierre-less welterweight division he honestly has no idea.
“I don’t always get a lot of credit, but I keep plugging away and I keep winning fights,” Fitch said. Even over the phone his voice sounds beleaguered. He’s been answering questions about where he thinks he is in the division since he lost to GSP at UFC 87 in 2008. The answer hasn’t changed. He’s believes he’s number two, right behind the future UFC Hall of Famer.
Nate Diaz and Chael Sonnen have both had successful MMA careers by using their outspoken personalities to market themselves. Don’t expect that kind of strategy from Fitch anytime soon.
“Jon’s not flashy,” said former PRIDE fighter Tom Erikson, who coached Fitch during his wrestling days at Purdue. “People don’t want to hear about guys doing the right things.”
In fact, if you want someone to tell you about how underappreciated Fitch is in the UFC, the best person to talk to is anyone but Jon Fitch. The welterweight is quick to point out that Purdue doesn’t have the reputation of cranking out top fighters like it should. He’ll sign action figures at Purdue wrestling’s alumni golf tournament every year and passionately list guys like Stefan Bonner, Matt Hamill, Matt Mitrione, Miguel Torres, Nate Moore, Jake O’Brien and Chase Beebe — all of whom have Purdue ties — but thinks Purdue is under the radar because many of the fighters did wrestle. Erikson, who is still an assistant wrestling coach at Purdue, has a different theory.