Matt Mitrione is ready to leave the cage fight.
The heavyweight veteran announced on Wednesday the MMA time that he will likely be finished competing in MMA as he prepares for his mixed rule fight with Alexander Flores at Saturday’s Triller’s Triad Combat event, which takes place this Saturday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, in FITE pay-per-view.
Triad Combat sees its fighters – including headliners Frank Mir and Kubrat Pulev – compete against a set of specialized boxing rules that also allow melee attacks, standing hammer punches, and back punches among other non-traditional boxing techniques. Mitrione is eager to participate in a different combat sport after feeling abandoned by some MMA rules and regulations.
“I would venture to say I’m done with MMA,” Mitrione said. “Probably, who knows, I might really like [Triad Combat]. Still, some people might call me ignorant for saying this, but I don’t feel like I was outmatched in stand-up. My last three TKOs [losses], [Sergei] Kharitonov – the header and the other header – Tyrell [Fortune] the second, and these are literally the first contacts in combat. So I feel like if I’m going to retire and be done, then I want to be outdone. I want to have someone come and smoke me and fuck my ass for what I’m good at.
“Then it tells me, ‘OK, you’re done. It is high time. But I think in having situations, fights that I think should be reversed from a loss to a no-contest, because the first impact of fights is head shots and those are illegal.
“I think this should be a situation where I should be protected as a fighter. And if I’m not, which I wasn’t – and who knows what the hell [Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation President Mike] Mazzulli is doing in Connecticut – so because of that and since he didn’t knock them down, then I have no choice but to quit the sport of MMA, because I don’t trust the commissioner or the the arbitrator or whoever the governing body is going to be making the right decision. And I can’t take unnecessary hits because a fight should have been stopped.
Mitrione is particularly upset by his last loss to Fortune at Bellator 262 in July, a fight that saw Mitrione suffer strikes in less than two minutes after being shaken by a clash of heads. He blamed referee Dan Miragliotta for not recognizing the header and said he appealed to his self-preservation instinct.
The 12-year-old veteran proposed a red flag system in which the corners could throw a flag to notify a referee of unseen fouls, with an unsuccessful challenge potentially resulting in a loss of a point. However, even if rule changes were to be made to MMA, there are other issues Mitrione is having with the company.
“It was a really good life and I enjoyed it, but I’ve never been a fan of the variability of the fan base sometimes,” Mitrione said. “There are some who are really educated and I think that “There are the masses who are so casually ignorant that they don’t care to learn the nuances. I think that’s something that always bothered me a little bit about that.
“Like, I love grappling. I struggled because it was part of the sport. I don’t like wrestling, I don’t like people who can steal cartridges. I like the aggressiveness that is rewarded. I don’t like passivity to be rewarded in a combat sport. But it’s always been like that. Also, where I lived in Indiana, I had to travel, be away from my family, I had to do so many things. I think it was a very strong mixture of what I didn’t like, which merged financially with the freedom that I was able to have thanks to the sport.
Mitrione stressed that his family comes first, adding that his perspective on fighting had changed completely after fighting Fedor Emelianenko in 2017. “The Last Emperor” fell to Mitrione in just 74 seconds and thereafter he went on. signed Mitrione’s gloves for him. Mitrione says it is the only piece of his athletic memories from his own athletic career that he has ever retained.
The article is not only of sentimental value to Mitrione, however. His fight with Emelianenko opened his eyes to his worth and it taught him that he can play hard with Bellator.
“I don’t have a lot of good feelings towards [Bellator] at all, ”Mitrione said. “I made my financial life, I had leverage because I did what I had to do. I think they came up with several ideas, like the heavyweight tournament – I think the heavyweight tournament was a joke. It wasn’t a heavyweight tournament, it was a superfight tournament. Our eight biggest names that we have is what I thought it was. That’s why I told them I think it’s stupid, I don’t want to do it. I just eliminated Fedor in 71 seconds at Madison Square Garden, I’m 3-0 with three knockouts. Now you want me to take three steps back and fight arguably one of the game’s most enduring heavyweights, Roy Nelson, to be the first?
“Besides that, why are you inviting Chael [Sonnen], who is a wrestler, Bader, who is a wrestler, Mo [Lawal], who is a wrestler? Why are you inviting three light heavyweight wrestlers, all extremely accomplished, against heavyweights? It doesn’t make sense to me. There’s a completely different skill set in heavyweights compared to that pick back then, so I resisted. I was like, ‘No I’m not going to do this, that’s stupid.’ Put me on the shelf or I will fight Cheick Kongo for the title that no one really has, then once I beat Kongo I will fight whoever wins the “heavyweight” tournament and I will, this is not a problem at all. They didn’t like that idea either, so I resisted until they paid me more and it was leverage. This is what I needed. Then everything was changed from there.
Mitrione ended up defeating Nelson by decision in the first round of the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix, then lost to eventual winner Ryan Bader in the semifinals. He hasn’t won a fight since defeating Nelson in February 2018.
While Mitrione seems thrilled with the possibilities Triad Combat could offer him, he is yet to make a long-term commitment to Triller and close the door to MMA completely. Outside of combat, his plan is to pursue a career as a firefighter, starting by enrolling in the EMT program at his alma mater Purdue University.
“Maybe this is a big fight for me,” Mitrione said. “Maybe this is a great opportunity. I might get my ass kicked, who knows?
“That’s all I wanted, a one-fight contract. Financially, I am doing well financially. I don’t really stumble over it. I am building a career, but I could still continue to fight. I still train, but I look forward to whatever life brings to me, but I know my wife and kids appreciate that I’m home, they enjoy the lifestyle we have and I don’t don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone anymore. I feel happy in my life, but like I said, I’m also addicted to competition.
If Mitrione retired from MMA, he would end his professional career with a 13-9 (1 NC) record that started in the UFC after being dismissed from his post. The Ultimate Fighter 10. He competed only for the UFC and Bellator and holds notable wins over Emelianenko, Nelson, Gabriel Gonzaga, Derrick Lewis and Kimbo Slice, among others.