The definition of greatness in an athlete has been debated for years. Is it the number of titles they have won? Is it based purely on their athleticism? Or could it be the ability to rise above any limitations that have been bestowed upon them, and push themselves beyond anyone’s expectations? In the case of Jon Fitch, his ability to push himself beyond those limits may one day define his greatness. And although he was defeated soundly at UFC 87 by Georges St. Pierre, his heart and determination proved that he is well on his way.
Fitch is the first to admit he isn’t the most talented fighter on the planet. The Indiana native has had to work for everything he’s ever got – in sport and in life. To walk onto one of the best wrestling programs in the country out of high school and become the Captain of that same Purdue Boilermaker squad is a testament not only his skills but leadership abilities.
He has repetitively stated , that he was never blessed with great speed, super strength or deadly accurate precision. He was always the guy who had to work twice as hard just to stay even with the pack and three times as hard to break away from it. That never say die attitude and his strong mind has allowed him to overcome any shortcomings.
Since entering the UFC, Fitch has said he doesn’t care about the fame and fortune that comes with being a top fighter, (despite starting 8-0) but he just wanted to challenge himself against the best and see how far he could push his mind and body.
It’s the same reason people compete in Iron Mans, climb mountains and in Fitch’s case, compete in Mixed Martial Arts. To these few brave individuals, life often is about pushing themselves as far as they can, and ultimately finding out what kind of person they really are through this journey.
Jon Fitch must have found out a lot about himself Saturday night.
He entered the ring against the best in the world at 170 lbs. He was a heavy underdog and he knew winning would ‘shock the world’. Fitch repeated so many times that he ‘just wanted to test himself against the best’ that you actually began to believe him. And one has to wonder if the opportunity to finally fight against the best in the world was actually more important than the judge’s decision at night’s end.
Only Jon knows for certain.
Saturday night, Fitch was knocked down by vicious shots numerous times. In almost every round, referee Yves Lavigne was within seconds of stopping the Main Event, only to let Fitch recover and continue. The process would repeat over and over again. Blood pouring from his face and his eyes swelling shut, Fitch continued to get beat for 25 straight minutes.
But he never quit. Never broke.
Nearing the final moments of the fight, commentator Joe Rogan said that Fitch was being “beaten by a far superior athlete.” But how do we define an athlete and their greatness? It is their strength, power and speed? Which GSP was clearly head and shoulder above Fitch.
Or it is the will and determination to push yourself above and beyond any limitations that the glass ceiling that is Mixed Martial Arts often creates. If we define an athlete and their greatness by how hard they have had to work, and how tough they are, in the most difficult test of their sporting lives, then Jon Fitch ranks as one of the greatest in the world.