One of the most vocal figures in the sport of mixed martial arts regarding the treatment of its athletes, Jon Fitch is just as lethal outside of the cage as he is inside of it. He’s been a crusader of trying to make MMA a level playing field where the fighters can maximize their income rather than being treated like a number. On Friday night he’ll compete for a new promotion that is aiming to create the sort of environment that Fitch has been fighting for.
The Professional Fighters League will host its inaugural event at Daytona International Speedway and Fitch is anchoring the marquee when he collides with fellow Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Brian Foster. With the PFL’s ambitious plans to host a yearlong season that will culminate in a K-1-styled grand prix to determine a single champion of seven weight classes, Fitch is totally on board, especially considering that each bracket winner will pocket $1 million.
“I think the PFL is doing their best to make this sport how it should be,” Fitch said in a recent interview with Sherdog.com. “We are the only sport in the world that doesn’t have a sanctioning body. The NHL, MLB, NFL, NBA are all sanctioning bodies and they don’t sign contracts with the athletes. The promoters do, and in that regard the promoters are the teams. We don’t have that. I applaud the new owners for doing the best that they can but the situation is that we have one dominant promotion in the market and until they are willing to give up that title and accept some sort of sanctioning body, everybody else is trying to figure it out. We need to open that all up and allow all of the promoters to compete on a level playing field.
“But it’s exciting to possibly win more money next year -- in one year -- that I’ll have made throughout my entire career,” he added.
Fitch also stated that the push he’s been leading to force changes in MMA are coming together better than expected. Some cynics believe that his fight is an uphill battle that he’ll never win, but he’s quick to suggest otherwise.
“We have 23 co-sponsors on the HR-44, the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act,” he said. “It’s getting a lot of support in Congress and I’m going to lobby some more in July. I think they are going to pass this bill through and it will force some sort of sanctioning body to be created. We actually have more support than when the original Muhammad Ali Act was created, so if anybody is skeptical, they are in denial.”
But if Fitch is planning on enjoying his fighting career for however long he chooses to compete, he’ll want to carry some momentum going into the first season of the PFL, which is set for January 2018. He can ill-afford a loss on Friday, but he’ll have his hands full with longtime veteran Foster. A man of many skills with just as many submissions as knockouts, Fitch knows he’s got to be careful.
“He’s a tough guy who always comes to fight,” he said of Foster. “He throws down and I like opponents like these because it draws out the best fighter in me. You go in there to win and not just survive, so I’m looking forward to this challenge. He’s like an alligator with what he does. When he latches onto something, whether it be with grappling or striking, he does it with a lot of ferocity. That’s where the danger is and I need to make sure my defense is tight and not lazy. He goes hard.
Fitch, who grew up in Indiana, remembers going to the Indy 500 every spring, so he knows a thing or two about being at a racetrack. With Daytona being as iconic a track as the one he visited every year, Fitch is thrilled to be fighting at such a unique event as PFL 1.
“I’m looking forward to getting back down to Florida because I’ve good experiences fighting there and it’s a cool idea pairing us up with NASCAR so we should have a nice spillover from all the fans who might not know us. There will be a lot of excitement and they will see some blood being spilled.”
PFL 1 will be televised live on NBCSN immediately following the Xfinity Series Coca-Cola Firecracker 250. The promotion expects to have its first bout sometime around 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT.