After being dropped by UFC, Fitch looks to new start in World Series of Fighting

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Jon Fitch is no longer with the UFC but is still spoiling for a fight.

The former welterweight contender, cut by the UFC in February, returns to action Friday night against Josh (The People's Warrior) Burkman in the main event of a World Series of Fighting card at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

In the co-main event of WSOF 3, Saskatoon welterweight Tyson (Man of) Steele (10-1) faces Steve Carl (19-3).

Fitch (24-5) submitted Burkman (25-9) in the second round when they met seven years ago in the UFC at the same venue.

The 32-year-old Burkman, who was 5-5 during his stint in the UFC, has gone 10-5 since that loss and won seven of his last eight (losing only to Canadian Jordan Mein in April 2011).

Fitch has gone 12-3-1 since beating Burkman, losing only to UFC champion Georges St-Pierre, Johny Hendricks and Demian Maia. However, he's just 1-2-1 since February 2011.

"He's on the downside," UFC president Dana White said in explaining his decision to cut a fighter who went 14-3-1 in his organization.

In an interview, Fitch said his parting with the UFC "wasn't really a surprise at all.

"I was fighting for my job every single fight out there," he said of the UFC. "They'd never been a fan of me and they'd always make things very difficult for me right from Day 1."

He said he never found out why.

"I was just kind of like a red-headed stepchild nobody wanted and was just ignored," added Fitch, who has signed a four-fight deal with the new WSOF.

"Any of the problems that are out there had nothing do to with my ability to fight and put on shows," he added.

But in an organization that prizes finishes, Fitch's last 10 wins came by decision.

Cutting Fitch caused a fan backlash, putting White on the defensive. But the UFC boss has consistently defended the decision, saying Fitch was slipping down the rankings and was costly.

Whatever you think of Fitch's performances in the cage, he is no ordinary fighter. His Twitter and YouTube accounts show as a sense of humour as well as an interest in world events.

While some fighters tweet about their last meal, Fitch wonders openly about what is happening in Turkey. His horizons extend well beyond the gym and cage.

"The world's a pretty crazy place right now," he said. "There's a lot of things going on in our government and in other governments that people need to know about."

He has also shone the spotlight on his own life.

After undergoing rotator cuff surgery in 2011, he documented his rehabilitation in a 10-part video series titled "Road to Recovery.''

Fitch, who called his recent fan support "overwhelming," has refused to be dragged down by the debate over his UFC exit and says he's in a good place these days.

"To me this is about being a martial artist, regardless of where I get my paycheques from," he said. "I'm here to be a martial artist and show people that I think there's a better way of life and a happier way of life through fighting, as funny as that sounds."

White returned to the issue of Fitch last week after learning the 35-year-old fighter, in a WSOF media conference call, had called the UFC a "hostile work environment

In dismissing the allegation, White told that the UFC paid Fitch US$302,000 in discretionary bonuses over his career, in addition to $130,000 for his two fight of the night awards.

"That's a hostile work environment?" White asked

"He was given multiple opportunities and couldn't win the big fight," he added. "He's trying to make it personal."

In a YouTube video posted Monday, Fitch said he was paid $1,020,000 plus some $300,000 in bonuses over his 18 fights in the UFC.

His total pay was $1.322 million, he said.

"Sounds like a lot of money but let's have look at that a little bit closer," he said.

Divided over that over 7.5 years, he says he was making a little more than $176,000 a year.

Forty per cent went to taxes and 20 per cent to management and his gym.

He argues while he made a good buck, it was a pittance compared to what the UFC made on fight cards he was on.

"Most fighters didn't make as much money as I did. That's a fact," he said in the video. "So I want to state again that I've never complained about money. I've always love the money that I've made from fighting with the UFC and organization before I fought with the UFC."

"Money was never important to me," added Fitch. "That's not why I fight, that wasn't the point of fighting. I wanted to be the best in the world and prove that I was the best in the world.

"I don't know why money always get brought back up with them. It's not important to me but I thought it was important for the fans to know what the numbers actually are and to get some kind of perspective on what fighters are actually getting paid."

The former Purdue wrestler has always been willing to do what it takes. He uprooted his life to further his fighting career, leaving the U.S. Midwest for San Jose and the American Kickboxing Academy with only what he could fit in his car.

He has also endured disappointment. Fitch was due to board a plane to take part in Season 1 of "The Ultimate Fighter'' reality TV show, only to get a call at the airport that his services weren't needed. They had to get his luggage off the plane.

And for a while, he hung onto a part-time bartending job because he didn't have health insurance and worried he could not afford medical bills if something bad happened.

Married with 15-month-old son Mason, Fitch says being a father has been a "priority-changer."

Going to the gym and working out used to be No. 1 on his list.

"Well that's actually No. 2 now, because I want to be home and play with him as much as possible."

But he says it also brings a new motivation to fighting. If he is going to continue at a sport that allows him that time at home with his son, he needs to be successful as a fighter.

Organizations: World Series of Fighting, U.S. Midwest, American Kickboxing Academy

Geographic location: Las Vegas, Saskatoon, Turkey San Jose

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