Matt Mitrione Even More Confident Than Usual Heading Into UFC 137

Matt Mitrione

TUF 10 grad Mitrione excited to face Cheick Kongo

Matt Mitrione has the toughest test of his mixed martial arts career on Saturday night at UFC 137 when he steps into the Octagon against Cheick Kongo at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

The charismatic and unbeaten UFC heavyweight has come a long way since being part of the cast on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter. He was a complete novice, relying solely on his athleticism and willingness to learn to carry him through to the biggest stage in the sport.

A former defensive lineman with the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings, Mitrione has transformed himself from a former football player with raw potential to a potential title contender in the space of two years.

Most people will tell you that to go from zero to the fringes of contention in roughly 24 months is a rapid ascension, however that group doesn’t include Mitrione himself.

Appearing as a guest on The Next Big Thing podcast earlier this week, the undefeated 33-year-old heavyweight said he fully expected to be in this position at this point in his career.

“This is mentally my time frame that I was expecting. I broad jump the line of confidence sometimes, but I feel like I’m a superb athlete. I’m a rare, rare athlete, and anything I do, I’m going to excel at. I feel like it’s the same situation here. I’m happy to be at this point, but I expected to be at this point.”

Mitrione has picked up the nuances of fighting extremely quickly, and while some of that can be attributed to his natural athleticism, the jovial and entertaining heavyweight is also an extremely hard worker.

An itinerant trainer, Mitrione ventured to Boca Raton, Florida to work with the team at Imperial Athletics for the final stages of his training camp. Facing a talented and powerful striker like Kongo, the chance to work with Tyrone Spong was something Mitrione was quick to embrace.

“The whole environment down here is pretty good, plus with them bringing Tyrone Spong in, that makes this a really sexy place, at least for me. I’ve got Rashad, Coach Van (Mike Van Arsdale) to work with. I’ve got a couple of good grappling fellas, and Tyrone to work on my stand-up. It’s a good thing for me.

“He’s money; absolutely money,” Mitrione said of Spong when he spoke with Heavy MMA’s Megan Olivi Wednesday following the UFC 137 Open Workouts. “There’s actually another guy down there named Roy — I don’t know his last name, but he’s `@RoytheWolf’ on Twitter — he’s long; he’s like 6’4”, very, very long arms, and he’s a bit of a kicker.

“Between him and Tyrone, it was good. Tyrone is money because he can articulate things that he sees in my game, and make small, small patches to it that increases my game quite a bit.”

In addition to changing up his training partners and locations as he has always done, Mitrione worked with Mike Dolce to change his diet and nutritional intake as well.

“I feel fantastic. My body feels great. I feel like I have a bunch of energy up until the time I take my nap. I feel like things are going exactly the way they should. As a result of that, I feel confident; even more confident than I normally do, which is pretty embarrassingly arrogant. I feel great.

“I was always a really good athlete, but I ate like a dickhead. I ate Burger King and Dairy Queen, and ice cream; I ate whatever I wanted to, but I always performed well. But I’m getting older — I’m 33 — I want to try something out, see if I get a really good performance out of a high octane fuel, and I feel like I am.”

Going from facing the likes of Tim Hague, Joey Beltran, and Christian Morecraft is a sizable step up, but it’s one Mitrione believes he’s ready for at this point. And if things don’t turn out in his favor on Saturday night, he tips his cap to Kongo, because the man they call “Meathead” says he’s never been more ready than he is right now.

“I think it’s the right step up, the right time in my career, and I’m ready to scrap for it. I’m excited. Like I said, if Cheick Kongo beats me, he definitely earned it because I’m a bad, bad dude right now.”

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