But while he's been one of the most dominant forces in the division, he's come under fire for what many fans feel is a less than appealing style, especially in his last five fights. Fitch, however, equates his recent performances as growing pains and learning experiences in attempting to adjust his game after having some holes exposed by the Champ.
"The criticism I sometimes get for the way I fight never affects me too much," Fitch wrote in a fight journal at MMAFighting.com. "I know I'm going through a transitional phase right now and a few growing pains are to be expected. These last five fights since the title shot haven't been perfect, but the growing pains are necessary to get where I eventually want to be. I need those experiences to be the fighter I want to be."
"Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take a leap forward. I believe that is what I have done in recent fights and I believe that in the next couple of fights you will definitely see that leap forward. It might not have been pretty before, but everything is coming together now and I'm starting to realize just how vital these last few fights have been in my overall development."
Fitch equates those growing pains to those undergone by golfer Tiger Woods when he changed aspects of his game. For Fitch, it's a necessary evil to become a better fighter at the end of the day.
"When Tiger Woods was at the top of his game, they one day decided to change his golf swing and he started losing," Fitch wrote. "After a while that new golf swing began to click and Tiger started smashing everybody again and was even better than before. It just took him a little while to adapt to the changes and trust the direction he was going in.
"I'm in exactly the same position right now. I trust where I'm going and never expected it to be easy or pretty. So long as I get there in the end, that's all that matters and that's all people will remember."
Fitch meets B.J. Penn in the main event of this Saturday's UFC 127 event in Sydney, Australia. A win will likely bring him back into a fight for the UFC Welterweight Title later in 2011.
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Penick's Analysis: Fitch is one of the best fighters in the world, regardless of any criticisms people want to lay on him. He has won some fights in less than appealing fashion, but he's also dominated a number of opponents in highly impressive fashion as well. This is a huge fight for him; it's his first headlining fight since the loss to GSP, and the win gets him a shot at redemption for the Welterweight Championship. It may not be a second shot at GSP, but if he can get past Penn, he'll have a great opportunity ahead of him again.
[Jon Fitch art by Cory Gould (c) MMATorch.com]