In the aftermath of his first loss in years, to Neiman Gracie at Bellator 246, longtime welterweight Jon Fitch stripped off his gloves, and placed them on the cage floor. There was no question as to what was transpiring.
Fitch had retired.
The seed for that retirement, Fitch told reporters following the bout, at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, had been planted years earlier. In another organization, the World Series of Fighting.
Having been diagnosed with brain scarring, Fitch told himself ahead of his 2016 bout with Jake Shields that should he lose, he was done. Only, he didn’t lose. He won, won that promotion’s welterweight title, and kept on winning. He won two more fights after Shields, against top flight competition, then fought to a draw with Rory MacDonald for the Bellator 170lb title last year. Before every fight, he told himself retirement would come with a loss.
At Bellator 246 on Saturday, that loss finally came. Fitch stayed true to his word.
“I’m having fun, but at the same time, the body doesn’t react the way I want it to anymore, the recovery’s not quite the same,” he admitted to the media at the Bellator 246 post-fight press conference. “I don’t want to go down a dirty road. I think it’s a great time. 32-8-2 (1) [record as a pro]. Pretty good. I’ve got titles I’ve won. Neiman’s a great fighter, great guy, total class act. I hope he keeps moving forward, improves, hopefully he becomes champ, that’d be great.”
Despite some mistakes, said Fitch, “Overall it was a good run. It’s something I think my kids will look up to and admire when they’re old enough to understand it.”
Asked which memories from his 18-year career stood out the most, Fitch replied by saying that “the two biggest moments were the GSP fight, and when I got to fight in Brazil. Everything around those fights, the build-up, the experience, it was all awesome. The World Series of Fighting title fight, fighting Jake Shields in Madison Square Garden, was amazing.”
MMA retirements being what they are, fans often see fighters come back. As to what it would take to lure Fitch back for one more fight, “one million dollars,” he joked, complete with a Dr. Evil pinky finger gesture.
On a more serious note, “the amount of time it takes to train for a fight, it really does take time away from my family. I’m not comfortable with that,” said Fitch. If the money was different, something that would allow for better child care, it might be an option. But Fitch sounded resolute about his decision.
“I’ve been doing this 18 years, I’ve had over 40 fights. I think it’s a wrap,” he finished.