Striker vs. grappler. It’s a pairing that’s as old as the sport of MMA. The ongoing argument of which style is better will begin a new chapter when Brian Foster faces off against Jon Fitch at Professional Fighters League: Daytona. Although, if you listen to Foster, the next chapter could feature a few twists and turns.
Foster’s career is filled with trips to both the 155-pound and 170-pound divisions. At each stop, Foster has maintained his spot as not only one of the best fighters in the division but also one of the most exciting. The Factory X product will return to the 170-pound weight class to face a fellow veteran. The bout appears on paper to be striker vs. grappler, but Foster is aware the sport is called mixed martial arts for a reason.
“I’m not so naïve to think that Jon isn’t going to put me on a back,” Foster said. “I’m prepared for that and I think I have a lot of things to show there. You’ll see I’ve fought a lot of people like Jon. He’s not bringing anything different that I haven’t seen.”
You’ll only need to look back at Foster’s last outing to see the dynamic striker in action against a touted grappler. Looking to rebound from the devastating loss to former WSOF champion Justin Gaethje, Foster faced off against Luiz Firmino. In a shocking turn of events, Foster ended the fight not by knockout, but by tap out.
— WSOF (@MMAWorldSeries) October 8, 2016
The strong showing is due in part to Foster opening a facility in his native Oklahoma. Fighting out of Factory X in Colorado, Foster believes he’d go through a decline when not in camp. By opening Family Combat Fitness & MMA, Foster believes he has a new weapon in his arsenal to unleash on the PFL roster.
“The whole time in my career, I’ve lived in Oklahoma,” Foster said. “I started travel-training and would come home to my family. The one thing that I never had is skillful trainers, world class training partners or a world class training facility here. Now that I have this, I can stay in shape outside of my camps. I feel like June 30, everyone is going to be impressed.”
Foster enters the contest as one of the best welterweights currently on the roster. Outside of the loss to Gaethje, Foster has only lost to title contenders Joao Zeferino (a loss he immediately avenged in the finals of the one-night WSOF25 Lightweight Tournament,) and Jake Shields. Although MMA is an individual sport once the lights go on, Foster credits his teammates as a reason for his sustained success.
“I never really lost stride,” Foster said of his current run. “I think going to 155 had something to do with and me going to Factory X definitely had something to do with it. All those athletes out there push and motivate each other. They have an amazing aura about them and such a great family atmosphere. That’s what drew me to them because I’m such a family guy.”
With the underappreciated Marc Montoya working behind the scenes, Foster heads into perhaps the biggest fight of his career with a great supporting cast. Although Fitch’s WSOF welterweight title will not be on the line, a prominent spot in the inaugural Professional Fighters League season hangs in the balance. Beyond the stakes for 2018, a win over a well-known name like Fitch would also be a huge feather in Foster’s cap.
“He’s very good at what he does,” Foster said. “I have a lot of respect for him. I backed him when he was on that winning streak and the UFC wouldn’t give him that title shot back in the day.
Fitch is one of the best welterweights in MMA history and has fought a who’s-who during his lengthy career. Both men enter the contest as seasoned veterans and will have no issues adjusting to the limelight of being in a main event. And while both men are now preparing for the Professional Fighters League season ahead, Fitch seemed to have a foot out the door following his WSOFNYC title defense against Shields. Foster, a man who has dealt with his own issues outside of the cage, knows all too well what that feels like.
“I know where Jon’s head is at,” Foster said. “You know when doctors start telling you that type of stuff, you start counting every strike that lands. And I’m not sure I’m the type of guy that you want to fight with that on your mind.”
Indeed, one only needs to look at Foster’s record for evidence that he’s not looking to out-point anyone inside the cage. It’s a kill or be killed mentality when facing Foster’s barrage of strikes.
“You can look at my record, I’m going to finish you or you’re going to finish me,” Foster said. “Jon has some major problems for the first three rounds. After that? Your damn straight I’ve got some things to think about. But I’ve never had my ass whooped and Jon isn’t about to do it. He might take me down but he’s not going to whoop my ass. I think he’s got some shit to worry about.”
Facing Fitch, a fighter must always be prepared to be taken into deep water. Fitch has shown to be extremely durable throughout his career. He’s also a master at keeping the fight at a pace he prefers. Foster admits that Fitch could seize the advantage if the fight goes into the later rounds. Still, Foster is preparing to be just as dangerous in the last round as he is in the opening minutes.
“My diet wasn’t so good in the past,” Foster said. “I felt a lot more lethargic when guys would get on top of me. But now that I’m educated and more experienced, I’ve played with my diet so much that it’s not something I just do in camp. It helped me get to 155. Going to 170 I’m going to have a lot more efficient energy. So maybe in the later rounds you might be surprised. I might come alive in the 5th round.”
If Foster’s newfound training regimen provides him with the same amount of pop in his strikes during the later rounds, it could be a long night for Fitch. We already know Foster is one of the most dangerous fighters in the early portion of the fight. Now opponents could feel even more helpless knowing that even if they weather the early storm, Foster’s second wind is right around the corner.