The UFC’s Meat Grinder: From Vagabond to Contender

By Jason Probst

With a UFC record of 13-1, welterweight Jon Fitch soldiers ahead toward a second title shot, a campaign underwritten by an eminently blue-collar and unassuming approach. In facing B.J. Penn at UFC 127 on Feb. 27 in Sydney, Australia, Fitch knows it to be an opportunity replete with upside.

In short, an impressive win over Penn could go a long way toward getting him a second crack at champion Georges St. Pierre.

Originally booked to fight Jake Ellenberger, Fitch received news of the switch after Penn’s slam-bang knockout of Matt Hughes on Nov. 20. Coming off back-to-back decision losses to Frankie Edgar, Penn’s stock was instantly resurrected in the welterweight division.

“[American Kickboxing Academy trainer] Bob Cook called my wife and had her track me down. I was kinda shocked,” says Fitch. “It was late Saturday night; they’re calling for an opponent change and a date change. I jumped all over it. I was a little [disappointed] to come away from the Jake Ellenberger fight, because he’s an up-and-coming guy. I’ve been in that situation, but, at the same time, I need with fight with B.J. Plus, to headline a card is great.”

Stylistically, the matchup is compelling, as Fitch and Penn are polar opposites in terms of how insiders and fans perceive their consistency.


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