Matt Mitrione has made life difficult for his fellow heavyweights since he competed on Season 10 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He has earned his stripes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator MMA through the dangerous power emanating from his fists.
Having gone 3-0 since he left the UFC, Mitrione will headline Bellator 194 opposite Roy Nelson in the Bellator heavyweight grand prix quarterfinals on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The winner advances to the semifinals, where a battle with the forthcoming Ryan Bader-Muhammed Lawal showdown awaits later this year.
Ahead of Mitrione’s clash with Nelson, here are five things you might not know about him.
1. Injuries curtailed his NFL career.
Mitrione was an accomplished high school and college football player prior to moving to MMA. While at Purdue University, he managed to overcome a foot injury and later earned a spot on the New York Giants roster as an undrafted free agent. Unfortunately for Mitrione, he suffered yet another foot injury in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the 2003 NFL playoffs. It was a tipping point for “Meathead,” who transitioned to mixed martial arts after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings in 2005.
2. Baseball provided the path to his first MMA fight.
Former UFC welterweight Chris Lytle and Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth convinced Mitrione to give mixed martial arts a look once his professional football career had run its course. Werth even offered him the opportunity to fight for an MMA promotion he once co-owned: Capital City Cage Wars. Mitrione was later cast on “The Ultimate Fighter 10.”
3. He was an immediate success in mixed martial arts.
Though he lost to James McSweeney in “The Ultimate Fighter 10” quarterfinals, Mitrione impressed UFC officials enough to draw an assignment at “The Ultimate Fighter 10” Finale on Dec. 5, 2009. There, he re-introduced himself to the public by knocking out fellow NFL alum Marcus Jones. Mitrione was then afforded the opportunity to face Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson at UFC 113 a little more than five months later and stopped the infamous boatyard brawler by second-round technical knockout. He ultimately started his career with five straight victories before losing a unanimous decision to Cheick Kongo in October 2011.
4. A Clark Griswold “Christmas Vacation” meltdown was not needed in 2014.
Mitrione enjoyed a successful year in 2014 in terms of post-fight bonuses. He won all three of his fights during the campaign, all by first-round knockout. Mitrione was awarded $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonuses in wins over Shawn Jordan at “The Ultimate Fighter China” Finale and Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC on Fox 13.
5. He has been a picture of perfection overseas.
Mitrione has proven to be comfortable with the idea of hopping on a plane and crossing the oceans to ply his trade in other countries. In fact, he has won all three of his fights outside of North America. Mitrione defeated Jordan in China, Philip De Fries in Sweden and Oli Thompson in London. Only Thompson managed to see a second round against him.