Matt Mitrione headlines Bellator 215 this Friday against legendary striker Sergei Kharitonov and gave his thoughts on the matchup during Bellator’s Media Day.
New York, NY — Matt Mitrione is facing another legend in the cage tomorrow at Bellator 215, fighting Sergei Kharitonov in the main event. Kharitonov is a PRIDE veteran with a 28-6 record including 15 striking stoppages that solidify him as one of the greatest heavyweight strikers ever. Like when he fought Fedor Emelianenko, this is the type of fight Mitrione wants in Bellator.
“When I signed with Bellator, I told them, ‘if I’m coming over, I want the opportunity to fight these guys.’ They never had the chance to fight in the UFC and that’s where I spent my whole life. This was one of the main factors that brought me over and it’s come to fruition. I’m fortunate, this is awesome, and they’re cool dudes. It’s cool to see that these legends, like Fedor, Kharitonov and Cro Cop, are just as cool as you hope they are. As a fan of the sport, it’s pretty damn cool.”
There are also other benefits to being matched up with Kharitonov in Mitrione’s mind. Coming off the tough loss to Ryan Bader in the Heavyweight Grand Prix, Mitrione stated that it’s a relief to fight not only a pure striker, but a natural heavyweight this time around. Even if his exit from the tournament left a bad taste in his mouth, Mitrione had nothing but good things to say about the current heavyweight champion.
“Personally, I’m very happy for Bader. Professionally, I wish Fedor won. I would have been salty and had a different opinion if Bader came out and wrestled Fedor the way he wrestled me. He didn’t. He threw hands, he knocked him out – faster than I did – so I can’t be salty about that. If I’m salty at Bader for the way he finished and fought in the tournament, then I just have sour grapes. He took advantage of an imperfection I have and did a great job on it, then he knocked Fedor out. That’s intelligent, that’s strategic, and that’s fight-planning. I can’t get salty about that. Good job Bader.”
Putting the past behind him, Mitrione is fully focused on the tough task at hand: find weaknesses in a legend’s game. His approach to this is to fight in a way that creates openings that the former football player can attack.
“The good thing about that is that when it comes to heavyweights, I am the anomaly, I’m the different one. So it’s not about finding the holes, it’s about exploiting them when I make them. And how do I avoid the cinderblocks that he’s throwing at my face while I’m trying to adjust and maneuver?”
This is an important fight for Mitrione to get back on track and to stay relevant in the mix of important heavyweight fights that are occurring this weekend. He sees himself winning in one of two ways.
“I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. I’m going to punch him in his face. He’s really good at what he does, and if I’m standing there to take a beating like that, then it’s my fault. But hopefully, things go the way I see them and I get my hand raised. How does it happen? I don’t know. If it’s before the bell I win by knockout, if it’s after the bell, I win by decision. We’ll see.”
Bellator 215 takes place tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. EST on Paramount Network. Cageside Press will be at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, to provide live coverage when Matt Mitrione takes on Sergei Kharitonov in the main event.