I often unrealistically pity professional fighters that I see as hitting the ceiling of their careers, especially if they are planning on sticking around. I wonder how bad it must feel to know your career is reduced to being a gatekeeper or being lost in a division with little hope of ever getting another big break.

But really, I’m light years away from the reality of ever knowing that feeling. I comfortably sit on my butt for hours on end and criticize their lives from the safety of my home without ever breaking a sweat.

Then again, I know my place in the MMA universe, as a lowly naive scribe. I simply enjoy watching fighters and vicariously living through their triumphs and defeats. That’s what excites me about watching them, that they fight to change their destiny and to rid themselves of weakness or settling for something.

With that digression out of the way, let’s look at long-standing top UFC welterweight Jon Fitch. Is he one to fight destiny and empire to get another title shot and chance for glory? Or is he destined to be stuck right where he has been, metaphorically standing at the edge of a precipice looking downward, unable to go any higher than he already has been before?

At 34 years old and 1-1-1 in his last three fights, Fitch’s options for making another title run are becoming much more fleeting than they were for him years ago. If you’ve been reading Fitch’s thoughts on his own chances at getting another title shot, you’d know he doesn’t have the greatest hopes of getting there again. He sees a second fight with Georges St-Pierre as something that probably isn’t all that intriguing to the UFC. Also, a list of contenders are already lined up in front of him, including Nick Diaz, who is coming off a loss from a interim title fight to being rewarded with a title fight. It’s that sort of thing that gives Fitch a discouraged outlook at ever fighting for the UFC welterweight title again.

Yet, I’d argue that there is still hope for him. It just won’t be an easy journey (as if it ever is). His upcoming UFC 156 fight with Demian Maia in February is one that all of the UFC’s top-10 welterweights should have their eyes on. If we look at their records and accomplishments, it would be just as easy to say either could be on their way to building towards a second title shot as it would to discount them. I’ve already written about how Fitch deserves good standing in the top heap of UFC welterweights, but now the question surrounds what path he needs to follow to get to the top.

In eight fights since losing to GSP in 2008, Fitch’s only blemishes have been a draw with B.J. Penn and a knockout at the hands of Johny Hendricks. Certainly nothing to balk at, though the Hendricks loss legitimately pushed his standing back a few steps.

The answer is all too simple for what it will take to get back on the right track. Fitch just has to keep winning. His upcoming opponent, Maia, is an excellent fighter to carry a win over going forward, and it’s only through beating those kind of names that fans could get on the side of Fitch.

Before his draw and loss in 2011, Fitch was consistently beating guys like Mike Pierce, Ben Saunders and Thiago Alves. We all know that Fitch can reasonably beat anyone outside of the top 10, maybe even the top five, but that is not something that will force the UFC’s hand in granting Fitch another title shot. The same story was perpetuated throughout that recent winning streak: will Fitch ever get another title shot? To present an answer, he’ll have to consistently knock off top contenders to rouse any undeniable support, as well finishing opponents or just being more aggressive.

Even so, his most recent win appears to be a sign that things are finally looking up for him.

We’re seeing a more outspokenly frustrated Fitch these days. And it seems he is using that frustration as a positive motivational factor. That’s not to mention his need for a paycheck, which was a story the media ran with leading up to his most recent fight with Erick Silva at UFC 153.

In that fight, fans saw a much more aggressive Fitch than the one we had grown accustomed to seeing in the past. Fighters with a strong wrestling base like Fitch catch a lot of flack from fans and promotions for their approach in the cage. When they can still use those skills and keep a fight entertaining even towards a decision, it seems like the perfect common ground for all involved. Seeing that approach for future fights would be something that would go a long way towards turning cold shoulders.

Fitch is similar to Bellator’s lightweight champion Ben Askren in this regard. Askren earned his first finish in six fights against Karl Amoussou last Thursday at Bellator 86 while still using his patented wrestling technique of smothering his opponent. As long as a fighter can damage their opponent, and better yet, finish them like Askren did, fans will begin to look at what’s ahead and not what they didn’t like about the past.

Hell, Fitch could even do something as petty as acting like a jerk in interviews or take a page from professional wrestling’s playbook and do something to get people fired up. Change his hairstyle or do anything controversial to get attention. Anything to keep fans minds on the now and not letting them linger back to “the old Jon Fitch.”

His fight with Silva was a step in the right direction, and continuing that momentum is the best thing he can do.

For now, his options are limited, with nearly every single fighter in the top-10 booked for a match already. So, it is too early to look past Maia. It won’t be an easy road, but Fitch is going to need a win against Maia, and then he will have to call out and beat the winner (maybe even the loser) of Carlos Condit vs. Rory MacDonald or possibly Jake Ellenberger vs. Johny Hendricks. Martin Kampmann is open at this time and Nick Diaz would always be a good choice to fight after his match with GSP is decided.

The single most important thing for Fitch is that he needs to finish an opponent. We’ve seen the UFC overlook Fitch for years now. That would be the only thing to get the promotion’s attention.

Photo: Jon Fitch (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.