Mixed martial artist Jon Fitch, a former top welterweight contender for Ultimate Fighting Championship preparing to headline a World Series of Fighting bout this Saturday, is one of the world’s only athletes paid in cryptocurrency. He also likes eating tacos at 10 a.m. He sat down while doing the latter to chat about the former with Inverse.
What initially appealed to you about bitcoin?
After the 2008 financial collapse, I was left under $180,000 on my condo in San Jose. I didn’t want to keep supporting people who kind of make those things happen. So I started playing around with cryptocurrency. Now I see all the possible things it can be used for. Especially the blockchain and the technology behind that.
Are you solely getting paid in cryptocurrency now?
Not totally. I was sponsored through Nautiluscoin for my fight last June, when I fought Dennis Hallman. I think I was the first mixed martial arts fighter who got paid strictly in bitcoin. But I know that Dogecoin sponsored a NASCAR driver.
The appeal for me with bitcoin and MMA is it’s an international sport. A lot of guys have problems with getting paid and the payment processing that goes on. You fight in Brazil or somewhere else, and it takes a few weeks before you get your check. It’s not always easy for a lot of fighters. They’ve got people to pay, trainers, expenses, and things like that.
Do you factor that in when negotiating your fee for a fight? How do you figure out if you’re going to be paid in cryptocurrency?
Well I didn’t get a crypto sponsor this fight. Usually it’s still cash deals, but it’ll be paid in crypto: $1,000, $1,200, this much and then whatever the conversion is. I think it’s an exciting time and I think people need to get over worrying about how it’s going to go mainstream and just keep doing good things, making good products.
Bitcoin can be volatile. Is that something you consider when you get paid?
I think it’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket. I like BitGold right now because you can hedge your assets a little bit. I like HYPER coin’s 5 percent interest. I can’t get that at the bank, you know? The price has been fairly consistent for a while. It’s almost a two-year-old coin and what I like about it is it’s a gaming coin. It has gaming servers. Instead of getting points, they get money back. Why play video games just for points when you could be making money? The only game I play on my phone now is Flap Pig where you get satoshi [one hundred millionth of a bitcoin] for collecting coins. It’s not that great of a game, but I’d rather make money when I waste my time.
How do you keep an eye on what’s coming up? How’d you learn about BitGold or HYPER coin?
Twitter is like my newspaper now. It’s not social media stuff for me, it’s literally a news feed. I get up in the morning, drink my coffee and read my Twitter.
There’s also a show this guy does on YouTube called Bitcoin Rush. He’s this German guy— you know that old movie Hackers from back in the day? He reminds me of something that would have spawned from that. Like, “Yes! this is what our future was supposed to look like! This is what our shows were supposed to look like!”
You’ve been in bitcoin since it was about $600. You’ve seen it fluctuate quite a bit. Did you ever get cold feet at all?
Like I said, never put more into it than you can lose. But no, I never really worried too much about it because the things you read about, why they think it’s worrying or whatever… One of the reasons the price came down, I think, was the adaptation. More stores, more shops taking bitcoin directly and they’re converting it immediately. So they’re always going to take whatever price is on the exchange, so that’s going to drive the price down. But I think we’re at a comfortable spot where I think it’ll stay at the $230 to $250 place for a while.
What would you like to see with bitcoin technology that’s not quite there yet?
More secure wallets. Maybe things that don’t download onto your computer. Anything that makes it more usable, and different apps and things that can be decentralized. Anything that’ll decentralize, I like.
There’s less chances for people to mess with it. Whatever it is. Even things like Uber are still centrally controlled. You know? Somebody else controls the price, it’s not the driver that controls the price. I think that’s the way everything is going to start going. I think we’re already seeing it. People barter more now, they trade more now. In the Bay Area and Vegas too, people have chickens so they have their own eggs. People make their own bread and they have fruit trees and if they can’t consume what they’re making, they have friends who have something else, so they’re trading. It’s kind of like we’re going back to the feudal time, which is kind of better I think. Instead of going to one central location to get all your food or all your anything.
It’s almost like techno-feudalism.
Yes, exactly. That’s a good way to put it.
I just went back to Indiana last summer with my wife and she couldn’t get over it. Every five or six driveways—of course they’re like a mile apart—but every five or six driveways, there’s a sign for fresh, brown eggs. I was like, ‘Yeah, I bet you money if we drive up the driveway there’s nobody there. There’s just a bucket for money.’ Well with techno-feudalism you use transfer your bitcoin into the little bitcoin machine and get your eggs.
They’re probably better eggs than you can get at the supermarket.
Exactly. They’re not ‘certified’ organic, but they are. If you want good eggs you just ask someone in the neighborhood. ‘Oh, yeah these are good eggs. But Susie’s down the street are even better.’ But we’re kind of getting back to that. I think people kind of got excited by technology and industrialization of everything and it’s just not serving everybody right now. It’s only serving a very small percentage of people who are at the very top. I saw a graph within the last couple years that showed the wealth gap between the wealthiest people versus everybody else, and it’s larger now than ever in world history. And that’s not the way it should be. It seems like it should be getting closer together in that wage pay and wealth, but it’s not. It’s worse than when they were building pyramids in Egypt or feudal England. And we look back at those people and think how foolish, how dumb were they? But we’re kind of doing the same thing now.
And you think sort of bitcoin is almost a way of fighting back, as a response to that?
A little bit. But I think if we’re too vocal about fighting against those people, they’ll fight back. I think we need to mind our own business and keep plugging away. They’re going to be the ones to miss out.
And from your point of view it’s almost as if — because there are inherent benefits to cryptocurrency — it will organically continue and attract interest?
I think so. People are just finding out there’s a better way. If a game developer can develop an Xbox or Playstation game, or their own system, where instead of points you get actual money and you can use that money to buy in-game products, that’s going to catch on pretty quickly. I don’t think you need to advertise that very much. You can buy a better gun for your character, or you can transfer the money to your wallet and go buy a pizza. Then when you’re playing a game, you pause and go down to your food menu and order a pizza while you’re playing a game. Then a drone flies it through your window!
So, you’re sort of a futurist.
Well, the drone’s a little annoying, but it’s possible.
I’d like to see more secure services. Encrypted secure services that you could pay for through cryptocurrency. That would be something I would like to see in the close future. Secure email, secure text messages that I can paid for through bitcoin. Because then, you know, they’re not getting my credit card number or billing address. I can pay for security through a secure system.
That makes sense. Especially when you’re traveling so much.
And, you know, with all these government spies on us [laughs]. I want to be able to take a dick pic in peace!
I was talking to somebody yesterday and they’re having issues getting paid. I was like, “Do you want me to send you a check through the mail? Or do you want to go through the whole process of a bank wire? Which one is going to go through faster?” And if you’re sending a letter to a country that’s not too secure with their mail system and a letter with a check could be taken pretty easily.
And just getting rid of credit cards all together. I think that’s one of the things that got me to this. My mother went through the whole Target thing.
Sorry to hear that.
I mean it wasn’t bad. Nothing was stolen, but she had to go through the process of getting news cards. It’s just a hassle! It’s hard to get people to see that the future doesn’t have to be the past.