34 P H U K E T G A Z E T T E S P O R T S November 8th, 2008
MEET JON FITCH
By James Goyder
Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) superstar Jon fitch recently spent a month in Phuket. Jon, the number two ranked fighter in the 170 lbs division of the UFC, the worlds premier mixed martial arts competition, came to Thailand to spend a month training at Tiger Muay Thai following a disappointing defeat in his last UFC outing.
Jon had been on an incredible run of fifteen straight victories which saw him given a shot at the UFC welterweight title holder and arguably one of the best pound for pound MMA fighters on the planet, Canadian George St. Pierre. The fight took place in august and was the headline event in a UFC show witnessed by over 20,000 people in at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota and many more on pay per view throughout the world. The two men were both standing after five rounds of intensive action but St. Pierre was awarded a judges decision to retain his title.
Despite this disappointing defeat, the first of his UFC career, Jon is a very big deal in the US and remains one of the top fighters in the world. So why did he decide to come to Phuket, 'I’ve always wanted to come to Thailand to study Muay Thai. I looked around and found Tiger Muay Thai and it seemed like a good camp and a couple of my team mates had already trained here and Alan Belcher trained for a UFC fight here which he won impressively.’
Mixed martial arts or MMA combines elements of judo, jiu jitsu and wrestling as well as Muay Thai. Jon comes from a primarily wrestling background and has been working hard to improve his striking skills following the loss to St. Pierre, ‘My last fight exposed a lot of flaws in my game. I threw one low kick, which was technically very bad and he made me pay for it.’
By his own admission Jon was deeply affected by the loss to St. Pierre, his first since 2002. ‘Losing sucks. I was in a deep depression for a few weeks and I needed to get away and re-invent myself. I think my Muay Thai has improved a great deal since I have been here, as has my flexibility. For the first time in my life I can almost do the splits.’
Sitting comfortably at the top of the MMA ladder Jon is rumoured to have received around $90,000 for the St. Pierre fight. This type of money is unheard of in Thailand where Muay Thai fighters will normally have their first fight under full Muay Thai rules at the age of five or six, and will often have fought more than 200 times by the age of 25, at which point they are generally accepted to be past their prime.
Jon has clearly been struck by the cultural differences, ‘These guys fight all the time because they need the pay. There’s one guy here whose fought twice in the month that I’ve been here and he’s been cut both times. In the US if you get cut you don’t train for three weeks and that’s why we’re trying to introduce them into MMA because they can make more money for fighting less. I only fight about three or four times a year.’
Despite training twice a day with the trainers at Tiger Muay Thai Jon has still found time to explore a little of Phuket, ‘We’ve driven around the island, seen the beaches, seen the elephants and I even saw a gibbon climb into a taxi and start drinking someones drink. I’ve been to Patong and had a couple of beers but I’m 30 now and can’t drink the way I used to.’
“I went to Karon yesterday to watch the volleyball. I have always enjoyed watching girls’ volleyball because volleyball girls are usually the most attractive athletes. Plus I haven’t seen a girl over 5ft 5 who isn’t a lady boy for three weeks!’
For Will McNamamara, the owner of Tiger Muay Thai, it is a great privilege to have such a renowned fighter as Jon Fitch training at his camp, ‘He’s one of the best MMA fighters in the world but he came here to learn Muay Thai because he appreciates the trainers and the programme which we have here.’
Jon himself is equally effusive, ‘The standard of training is excellent here. Because they have so many people training here they can offer to pay the trainers more than other gyms so I think they have the best trainers.’
So what does the future hold for Jon? ‘I will probably fight again in January. I would like another title shot but I don’t think I will get the opportunity again until late 2009 or early 2010 and I am going to have to win two, maybe three more fights to get back into contention.’
It seems likely that Jons’ first trip to Thailand will not be his last, ‘I think I’ll come back again. I’d like to and I’d like to bring my girlfriend with me and stay for two months and maybe be a bit more relaxed. We’ve been training twice a day which is hard because your body takes time to adjust to the heat and the humidity.’
Look out for Jon to showcase his new found Muay Thai skills on a UFC show early next year. For more information about Jon Fitch go to: www.fitchfighter.com. For more information about Tiger Muay Thai visit: www.tigermuaythai.com.
© Phuket Gazette