In an interview with MMAWeekly.com, Fitch revealed that he's past the days of simply taking on all comers, and wants to maximize his value as a fighter against only the best of the best, even if that means sitting on the shelf for awhile.
"I'm at a point in my career where I need to be fighting main events and main event fighters,? Fitch said. "And if you don't have a belt, currently, or you haven't owned a belt in the UFC, I'm not really interested."
Fitch has his reasonings behind his new mindset, some of which came about after a recent conversation with former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans. But Fitch knows full well how far a fight against an unknown gets you in the UFC. He's done nothing but win fights in the organization, save for a loss to Georges St. Pierre and his UFC 127 draw with B.J. Penn, but despite that fact, it took him eight wins to earn his shot at GSP, and he's gone on another six fight unbeaten run since then, with no major change in profile or fanbase.
"I've gone out of my way throughout my career to just fight everybody they put in front of me and it's cost me dearly," he said. "When you fight somebody who no one knows and don't recognize their name, it doesn't matter how bad you beat them."
"I kind of had a talk with Rashad Evans during the expo up in Canada. [It] kind of opened up my eyes to it a little bit. He was telling me I [have to] stop screwing around, I have to think about my career, and I'm a main event fighter. I should only be fighting main event people."
"Main event people" in this case means one of two opponents: St. Pierre or Penn. They are the only two fighters he's faced in the welterweight division that he hasn't defeated, and with one still the greatest welterweight in the world and the other a former champion and legend in his own right, they are the only two fights he wants to take.
"I want B.J. or GSP," Fitch said. "Those are the only two guys I care [to fight] or have any interest in right now. If I [have to] sit out a year and wait for them, I'll do it. That's what I'm waiting to fight for."
Fitch is currently recovering from shoulder surgery, but expects to be back in action by December at the latest, and is hopeful November is a possibility.
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Penick's Analysis: I understand completely why he feels the way he does, but he hasn't helped himself with the UFC or the fans over the last several years. He's gone to the judges' scorecards in nine straight fights, and not all of them have been thrilling affairs. And as he said here, if people don't know who you're fighting, it doesn't matter how bad you beat them. It's even worse for you when the fact that it went to a decision ultimately makes people think in retrospect that it was more difficult for you than it should have been. I think Fitch is an excellent fighter capable of having great fights. It doesn't always turn out that way, but it's there. Unfortunately for him right now, he hasn't put himself high enough on the totem pole from a marketing standpoint to make demands like this. He hasn't sold a million pay-per-view buys the way Evans has, and can't make demands on who he will or won't fight no matter how much he wants to. That will only be effective in keeping him sidelined as Penn and St. Pierre each get booked in other fights. I'm not saying he needs to fight Rick Story next, but he may need to take a fight against someone other than the two he's named before he'll get near another title shot.
[Jon Fitch art by Cory Gould (c) MMATorch.com]