Matt Mitrione is nothing if not entertaining.
Since landing on the MMA radar as one of the house guests alongside Kimbo Slice and Roy Nelson on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, the former professional football player has remained a comedic and sometimes controversial part of the UFC’s big boy division. Along the way, he’s also started to transform himself into a legitimate challenger.
No one saw this coming from Mitrione; despite winning the most entertaining slugfest of the season during the preliminary round against the much more experienced Scott Junk, the man Rashad Evans nicknamed “Meathead” was an underdog in his bout on the TUF 10 Finale against Marcus Jones in a battle of two former NFL defensive linemen. Mitrione knocked out Jones early in the second round and hasn’t looked back since.
In May, he stopped Slice on the main card of UFC 113, and came back to win the final two round and a unanimous decision in the Fight of the Night opposite Joey Beltran at UFC 119 in September. That fight was memorable for another reason as well, as Mitrione used his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan to fire his then-agent Malki Kawa on live television. A win Saturday night against Tim Hague will give Mitrione four wins in just over fourteen months, but while the charismatic Purdue alum is pleased with his performances to date, he admits there is still a long way to go.
“To be perfectly honest, I haven’t thought about where a fourth-straight win would put me yet. If I’m fortunate enough to get there, it’s a good speaking point, but I think that might be all it is. I don’t think it really impresses too many people. I think I need to string together some victories over people who have fan clout and fan respect, then it might be a conversation.”
That’s not to say that the 32-year-old former New York Giant is overlooking Hague or taking the Canadian lightly. In fact, while many fans will forever remember Hague for being on the receiving end of Todd Duffee’s record setting knockout, Mitrione has done his homework on his opponent and expects a serious battle from Hague on Saturday night.
“Tim’s a tough-ass dude. If I’m fortunate enough to beat Tim and people want to question me about that, they can kiss my ass because I earned that joint. Tim’s a tough-ass dude. He’s got good chin, he’s a frickin’ bear; whatever I have to do to win that fight is what I’m going to do and I’m going to have to earn it. I’m not going to be able to break him very easily.
“His record in the UFC may not be that good,” continued Mitrione in his assessment of his opponent. “He’s fought some legitimate talent; he’s had some tough draws and fought well for the most part, so I think this is a legitimate challenge. He gets written off a lot because of the Duffee loss, but he’s dangerous, and the one thing for certain is that I don’t take him lightly.”
While his record inside the Octagon sits at 1-3, Hague debuted with an impressive first-round submission of Mitrione’s training partner Pat Barry, and enters the fight off back-to-back first round knockouts over solid competition under the Aggression MMA banner. This will be a third cup of coffee with the UFC for the Edmonton native, a fact that Mitrione feels speaks volumes about Hague’s abilities and will serve as extra motivation for his opponent this weekend in front of the troops.
“The UFC thinks he’s a good enough fighter and shows enough potential that they’ve brought him back on two different occasions. How many people have been brought back to the UFC three times? So they see a tremendous amount of potential in him. Tim knows that if he loses, it’s probably going to be curtains on his UFC career, so I’m expecting the best fight of his life. I guarantee he’s over there bustin’ his ass just as hard as I’m bustin’ my ass here in Indiana, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Though Mitrione is unsure of what the long-term future holds if he’s able to secure a fourth-straight win on Saturday night, there is one thing he is positive won’t happen.
“No, nobody is going to get fired after this show,” Mitrione laughed. “I’m very happy with the sponsorship situation; everything has gone extremely well, so no, I don’t think anybody is going to get fired. I don’t want to develop any undeserved attention from this one.”
If he comes away victorious on Saturday night and sticks to his word about not firing his agent after this appearance on Spike TV, all the attention Mitrione receives will be for his performance in the cage and it will be very much deserved.