Heavyweight Matt Mitrione returns to the Bellator cage this Friday at Bellator 262, looking to snap a three-fight losing skid.
Only, to hear Mitrione explain it, it’s not really a three-fight skid at all. In an exclusive interview with Cageside Press ahead of his fight with Tyrell Fortune, Mitrione gave his thoughts on his recent troubles, and the politics behind the result of his last fight being allowed to stand.
“People talk to me about ‘you’re on a three-fight skid.’ F*ck, I’m not,” Mitrione told us. “Bader beat my ass, I lost to Kharitonov because I screwed up and got distracted with my mouth piece, then I got head butted.”
The head butt incident came against Timothy Johnson, at Bellator 243 last August. Johnson would go on to beat Cheick Kongo and land an interim title shot. Mitrione has not fought since.
While Mitrione doesn’t feel politics have hampered his career much in general, he does see them at play in the Johnson incident. “In Connecticut, there’s only one person that’s on the commission, that’s Mike Mazzulli. He can do something. Every single person missed it, the commentator saw it,” Mitrone explained, adding that the correct response should have been “we should have saw this thing from the jump, we should have given you your five minutes. And now that we can’t, they should have overturned it. I absolutely would have agreed with that. And he didn’t.”
Instead, Sanford MMA coaches Henri Hooft and Greg Jones wound up in hot water, suspended for breaking quarantine protocols roughly three months later. The pair had entered the room of student Jason Jackson to help him prepare for his fight, when they were supposed to be isolated.
As Mitrione put it, “Henri and Greg got suspended because Mike Mazzulli was mad at them. This is like three months later. I got an e-mail that was probably a 10-second e-mail maybe within 45 minutes after they got suspended, saying ‘we’re not going to overturn the decision.’ They said ‘we’re not going to overturn it because we have no rule in place.’ He is the commission in Connecticut. He could have easily done that.”
It’s the timing that appears to have riled Mitrione. “It just so happens to be that it took three months, then when Greg and Henri get suspended, he decides to cancel me out at the same time? That’s politics.”
Bellator’s entire pandemic run has been spent in Connecticut, at the Mohegan Sun Arena, which falls under the purview of the Mohegan Sun Commission. In other words, under Mazzulli. What recourse does Mitrione have then?
“I’m going to have a conversation with Mike about it,” the heavyweight said ahead of Fight Week. “Because that’s inappropriate. I’m a professional, I’ll talk about it, but I don’t see how anybody can say that that’s not an influenced position right there.”
Mitrione is feeling much more upbeat about his fight against Tyrell Fortune, however.
“He’s a really good athlete. He’s obviously a very accomplished wrestler. He’s got skills that I don’t have, I’ve got skills that he doesn’t necessarily have,” Mitrone said of the match-up. “I’m pretty darn good at what I do. He’s good at what he does. So, we’re going to fight each other, go punch each other in the mouth, then afterwards, we’ll buy beers for each other. Hopefully it’s with my win money and not his.”
Mitrione broke into MMA, of course, on The Ultimate Fighter Season 10. After several years away, TUF recently returned for a 29th season, but Mitrione hasn’t caught it. “I didn’t even watch my series,” he admitted, though he’s aware the show was off-air for a while.
As for his own Ultimate Fighter stint, “I remember the entire experience sucked. Didn’t like it, didn’t like being up there,” Mitrione recalled. “I pretty much just started to entertain myself.”
For Mitrione, TUF was just a chance to get his foot in the door. “It was a way into the sport, and I’ve been here for 12 years, but it was 100% not what I would have chosen if I had my druthers at the moment,” he stated.
It wasn’t the personalities in the house that gave him issues. Rather, “it was being away. I don’t like being sequestered, I like being informed. I enjoy having a life, personality, a perspective, an informed opinion. Six weeks is a long time. I had a three and a half year old and a two month old. It just wasn’t my gig, man.”
Just like he hasn’t caught TUF 29, Matt Mitrione really doesn’t watch MMA period. “I haven’t watched a fight in maybe seven years.” With that said, Derrick Lewis fighting for an interim title actually took Mitrione by surprise. “I like Derrick, so good for him. Who’s it against?” When Ciryl Gane’s name came in response, it should come as no surprise that Mitrione hadn’t even heard of him. “I have no idea who that is.”
Bellator 262 takes place this Friday, July 16 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.