UFC 119: TUF Alum Matt Mitrione Flattered People Want To See Him Fight

Ultimate Fighter Matt Mitrione
Matt Mitrione Excited UFC 119 Fight Airing on Spike

When you have a big personality that resides a little left of center like Matt Mitrione, people tend to get caught up in what you’re saying and fail to notice what you’re doing.

As the epicenter of entertainment outside of the cage on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, the former Purdue Boilermaker became a household name for everything but his efforts in the cage. Discussing his team’s plan of attack with the opposition and hearing voices are the memories that remain of Mitrione’s time on Team Rashad, despite the fact that the completely untested heavyweight came out on the winning end of a hard-fought battle with the more experienced Scott Junk.

The trend continued heading into the TUF 10 Finale where Mitrione stepped in opposite fellow former NFL’er Marcus Jones as the underdog. Ten seconds into the second round, the 32-year-old had his first professional win, knocking Jones out and sending him to the sidelines of the sport. He followed it up with an equally impressive performance on the main card of UFC 113, blistering Kimbo Slice with an unexpected offensive attack including a handful of submission attempts and a collection of kicks that ended up making Slice rethink his career pursuits as well.

“I didn’t realize it was so one-sided,” admitted Mitrione of his performance opposite the marquee name of the TUF 10 season. “Once I sat back and had a chance to watch it, I thought to myself, `I beat Kimbo’s ass.’ It felt good, and a lot of that was Coach Duke.”

“Coach Duke” is Duke Roufus, the head of an emerging stable of competitors based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin that includes fellow UFC heavyweights Ben Rothwell and Pat Barry, and WEC lightweight title contender Anthony Pettis. “He knows how to pull exactly what he wants to get out of you out of you.”

In just two professional bouts and a little more than a year as a part of the UFC, Mitrione has gone from a ball of raw energy and potential into an increasingly well-rounded fighter, and knows that he has the element of surprise on his side.

“Nobody – unless you practice with me – has any clue of what kind of fighter I really am,” Mitrione suggested. “I’m sure that’s probably very similar to a lot of people, but I fight totally different than the way I practice, and I’m trying to work on that. I want to get more movement to the point that people see that I’m not just a guy who stands in the pocket and trades punches.”

While trading punches has worked well enough thus far, the former defensive lineman knows that constant improvement is crucial. To that end, Mitrione has been working diligently on becoming a more complete fighter and has surrounded himself with an impressive collection of coaches and partners to prepare for his UFC 119 meeting with Joey Beltran.

In addition to the aforementioned team at Roufusport, Mitrione also trains in the UFC 119 host city of Indianapolis, working alongside fellow UFC 119 competitor Chris Lytle and studying jiu-jitsu with Marcello Monteiro.

“I would split time between the two,” Mitrione said, clarifying his training situation. “I would be up [in Milwaukee] for 10-14 days, then come home for 5-7. I fell that Indy has some of the best wrestling around, especially for MMA.”

Topping the list of big, strong Indiana-based wrestlers Mitrione worked with in preparation for this bout is fellow Purdue alum Tom Erikson. Currently serving as an assistant wrestling coach with the Boilermakers, “The Big Cat” holds a 9-4-1 record as a mixed martial artist, including a knockout win over former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman.

Matt Mitrione UFC Win
“We used to watch Coach Erikson fight,” Mitrione reminisced of his college years and lack of desire to ever test Erikson. “When I started thinking about fighting, I called Coach Erikson because I needed to learn wrestling and I know nothing about it.

“He said he had a fight coming up and invited me to come in and help him prepare,” continued Mitrione. “He just completely kicked the crap out of me. It was unbelievable. I’ve never, never been manhandled like that before. After I heard about this fight, I called him up ask him if I could do some work with the Purdue wrestling team, and he’s been great. I’ve been going up there three times a week for about a month doing about as much work as I possibly can.”

While he came off equal parts aloof and abrasive when on the Ultimate Fighter, the truest measure to date that Mitrione is fully committed to becoming a complete fighter and showing fans what he’s all about is his reaction to being bumped to the Prelims Live portion of the event.

After earning middle of the main card status opposite Slice in Montreal, the affable owner of EDEN (Engineered and Designed Nutrion) takes a positive approach to being back on Spike TV where it all started for him.

“To be honest with you, I think I kind of like being on Spike TV because I’m more accessible,” admitted Mitrione. With this event coming on the heels of a solid summer and lacking the true marquee talent, getting on the Spike TV portion of the programming could very well put Mitrione into more homes than fighting on the main card. “I’m just flattered that people want to see me fight. Even if it’s just to see me lose, at least they still want to see me.”

Thus far, no one has witnessed the former New York Giant and Minnesota Viking fall inside the cage and Mitrione plans on keeping it that way Saturday against Joey Beltran.

“Honestly man, if I’m able to touch your chin, you’re not going to take a whole lot of them. I plan on being highly active, highly mobile and highly athletic. If he can stay with me punching him in his face and me trying to lay my shin into his forehead or his thigh, then good for Joey, but I don’t know how much of that he can take. Even Kimbo — who was supposed to be a tough-ass dude — wanted to be a wrestler.”

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