Jon Fitch reflects upon his start in MMA in book featuring personal journals

April 24, 2019

MMA Payout had the opportunity to speak with Jon Fitch about his upcoming fight this Saturday with Rory MacDonald in addition to a book he released late last year about his time starting out in MMA.

The book, Falling Upwards/Death by Ego, Fitch draws upon journals he has kept throughout the years which included his start in MMA.

After learning about the sport of MMA while an amateur wrestler at Purdue, Fitch drove across country to AKA in San Jose to train to be a mixed martial artist.  The book reveals personal journals about his training, life and scraping together a living while working towards a goal of being in MMA.  “Self-therapy,” is what Fitch attributes to publishing the book.  “I wanted to tap back in and get back into that mindset of that hungry, young athlete.  It brought me back into a different place.”

Fitch admits that he was apprehensive about publishing his private journals for the public to see.  The book does not edit out his journal entries although Fitch provides some editorial context to what he was thinking at the time.  “Why should you be embarrassed of your life?” Fitch stated about publishing the journals.  “More importantly, there are people that have gone through similar situations [in their life]. If they can see somebody else there, they might be able to get through the tough spot.”

In retrospect, Fitch notes that his career in MMA including a lot of luck.  As many know, Fitch went to Purdue University where he was a part of the wrestling team. Tom Erickson, Purdue’s head coach, was a former Pride fighter.  Mark Coleman and Gary Goodrich trained with the team at times and would tell stories about their trips, travels and money they were making.  “It was real life bloodsport stuff,” Fitch described, “It was a much more interesting life.”

With a stipend for grad school after graduating from Purdue, Fitch started to train MMA in Indiana with not a lot of support.  He recalls training with the Purdue Judo Club because they were the only club around at the time that resembled MMA. He met up with former UFC veteran Brian Ebersole and became obsessed with martial arts.  He then saw a DVD with Frank Shamrock fighting Tito Ortiz that changed his life.  “I want to train where that guy [Shamrock] is.”

“I gave myself 3 years or run out of money,” Fitch said of his plan to move to San Jose and be an MMA fighter.  The 41-year-old Fitch recalls a time when he drove to an ATM late at night from working at bars to deposit dollars into his bank account to ensure he didn’t incur any late fees.

Out west, he found a home and would not return to the Midwest to become an educator. “I was having so much fun, I wouldn’t have gone back.”  The book focuses on his meager beginnings at AKA, his almost-famous moment of being on TUF and the ups and downs of trying to find fights.

In his book, he detailed his MMA and BJJ workouts.  He also was consistent in using crossfit as a way to supplement his MMA training. At 41, Fitch has made changes to his preparation and keeping in shape.  “I lift more consistently,” he stated. “I have found a better way to lift and treat it more like hygiene.”

Fitch has been one of the leaders in supporting the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association.  He wrote an op-ed for the Washington Examiner at about the same time that the second hearing on the Ali Act expansion was happening before Congress.  Fitch has been an advocate about fighters’ rights for some time now but when asked whether he’d embrace Leslie Smith and Project Spearhead if she were to bring the messaging to Bellator, he demurred.

While both MMAFA and Project Spearhead may want the same thing in the end, it’s clear that the sides disagree immensely on how the means to the end.

“I just don’t think she understands the market,” Fitch said.  “We were not seeing eye to eye.”  He described a “group chat” in which the interested parties were discussing the matter of fighters’ rights and Fitch indicated that they asked her to leave the chat so that they could discuss their position in private.

Fitch takes on Rory MacDonald Saturday in San Jose for Bellator 220 on DAZN.

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