Four weeks from now, Josh Burkman will fight in the main event of the third World Series of Fighting event on the nationally-syndicated NBC Sports network. He faces a familiar opponent in UFC castaway Jon Fitch, whom he suffered a second-round submission loss to seven years ago at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas – the same venue the World Series of Fighting will visit next month.
Burkman has enjoyed much success since a three-fight losing skid in 2008 cost him his position with the UFC. He has won seven of eight fights since then, including the recent demolition of 12-time UFC veteran Aaron Simpson under the World Series of Fighting banner. A win over Jon Fitch next month would not only leave Burkman alone atop the World Series of Fighting’s welterweight fold but would also solidify his claims as one of the ten best welterweights anywhere. If you ask Burkman, though, he has much more to win.
Fitch beat me worse than anybody’s ever beat me in my career inside or outside the cage. He beat me at a time when I was probably buying my own hype a little too much and I definitely underestimated Fitch and overestimated myself. That’s where my career started to go up and down and it’s a fight that I performed well under my abilities and now coming back in my career, it’s just a fight that I want back. I think every fighter wants a chance to avenge his losses.
Since his UFC tenure, Burkman has relocated to his home of Orem, Utah, where he is part of the Pit Elevated fight team alongside UFC fighters Court McGee, Ramsey Nijem and Steven Siler. According to Burkman, the linkup with the Pit was a byproduct of McGee – another native Utahan – working with Chuck Liddell on the eleventh season of the Ultimate Fighter.
I’m a much different fighter now and having that performance that I had will not only help me avenge that loss but will also [help me prove] I’m one of the top welterweights in the world. That’s my ultimate goal, to prove that I’m one of the top fighters in the world and I think the World Series of Fighting has given me an opportunity to climb that platform by bringing Jon Fitch in. He’s a top ten guy in the world.”
Last time out, Burkman fought an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler in Aaron Simpson. Jon Fitch is also a grappler, though according to “The People’s Warrior,” one with a style better accustomed to mixed martial arts. Regardless the credentials held by Jon Fitch, Burkman feels like he will be able to not just defeat Fitch, but also finish him.
I think I can deal with Fitch. I fought him before and I know the mistakes I made against him. I’m a much different fighter now than I was then. At the same time, it seems like Fitch has taken his wrestling into MMA a little better than Aaron Simpson did. He used his wrestling to set up his hands, Jon Fitch has great standup but he also uses wrestling to transition to jiu-jitsu, a much different style and a much different problem than Simpson posed.
I’m excited to see [Jon Fitch’s approach] myself. I really feel that I’m better now than I’ve ever been, better than I’ve been in my entire career. I think after we both come out that Jon Fitch might try to press the action – and I hope he does that. After the first minute of the first round, Jon Fitch is going to realize he’s in there with a completely different fighter and I’m going to be able to find some openings and put myself into some good positions. The more he does that the more than I’m going to be able to hurt him and I think over the first round and a half I’ll really be able to start to break Jon Fitch down and I’m definitely going to stop it. I don’t think this fight will go to a decision – I think I’ll stop him before the fight goes the distance.
Fight fans appreciate good fights and I think World Series of Fighting is giving fight fans really good fights and fights they want to see. The big thing for World Series of Fighting is that three-year deal with NBC sports. NBC Sports came in and bought Versus to have a TV station for the Olympics and I read that that station is in 80 million homes. That’s what makes the WSOF unique in an upstart promotion is they got that TV deal. The World Series of Fighting, when I signed on with them my goal was to be a future fighter in their organization, not use their organization as a stepping stone to get somewhere else. I am coming off wins over Gerald Harris, Aaron Simpson and now I have a chance to become a top welterweight in this promotion with a win over Jon Fitch. I absolutely want to represent this brand right and I’ve been told the better the fighters do this better this organization does and the better the organization does, the better for us fighters.
Josh Burkman is set to become the only three-time WSOF veteran with his appearance at WSOF 3. Finding a home has been a difficult task for many ex-UFC fighters but Burkman has renegotiated his contract and will call the World Series of Fighting home for at least four more fights.
They were very open to it and when they signed Jon Fitch, they let me redo my contract again. It’s nice having a president like Ray Sefo because he knows where the fighters are coming from. They listened to me and they gave me a new contract, so I’ve got a four fight deal with them. I’m very happy with this organization and where it’s going and I’ll be around with them for a while.
Competition for the UFC is healthy and I think that for me, I’m coming up to the best part of my career over the next couple of years and I’m grateful for the WSOF for giving me a platform to perform on and I also think that I’m going to prove that one of the best fighters in the world is not on the UFC but in another organization.
(Photo by Esther Lin via MMA Fighting)