SHARE


Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC 249 live on
your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the
ESPN app.

Matt
Mitrione
didn’t go into “The Ultimate Fighter 10” with high
expectations.

After a solid collegiate football career with the Purdue
Boilermakers that saw him start 35 consecutive games on the
defensive line, Mitrione had an abbreviated tenure in the NFL that
included nine games with the New York Giants and brief stints with
the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings before washing out of
the league in 2005.

Shortly thereafter, “Meathead” was in the process of launching a
sports nutrition company when he was contacted by Philadelphia
Phillies star Jayson Werth regarding an appearance on an amateur
mixed martial arts show. Up to that point, Mitrione’s only
experience in combat sports was a sort of Toughman-style
competition during his redshirt year at Purdue. That experience
taught him, as he told
Big Blue View
in 2017, that “I really had no desire to get
punched in the face for a living.”

However, Werth was a proponent of his product, so he agreed to
fight. Although an injury prevented Mitrione from competing on the
card, he continued to train MMA. That ultimately opened up an
avenue to “The Ultimate Fighter 10,” which focused on heavyweights
and drew massive ratings thanks to the presence of YouTube brawling
sensation Kimbo
Slice
. Mitrione, meanwhile, just wanted to raise the profile of
his business.

“I went on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ literally because I owned a
sports nutrition company and it was such good promotion and
publicity for it that I could never afford to pay for. I went on
‘The Ultimate Fighter’ just to promote my supplement company, not
to be a fighter, not to do anything else,” Mitrione told
Sherdog.com.

“It ended up being a career that was three times longer than my NFL
career. I never expected it. Everything I’ve got, I quite literally
owe to the sport. And I couldn’t be happier. I couldn’t be happier
with what has happened in my life.”

The entirety of Mitrione’s professional tenure has taken place in
either the UFC or Bellator MMA, the two largest organizations in
the sport. But back then, the former defensive tackle went into the
show with no fighting experience other than his brief foray into
Toughman as a Boilermaker freshman.

“I was scared. I didn’t want to do it because I had never fought
anybody like that,” Mitrione said. “I didn’t know anything. My
fight was against Scott Junk.
And Scott Junk had already been in the UFC, had already been in K-1
and nobody wanted to fight Junk. Nobody did, because he already
such a reputation of being a brawler and a badass standup guy.”

Mitrione would defeat Junk by majority decision before falling to
James
McSweeney
in the show’s quarterfinals. His true Octagon debut
was a knockout of fellow former NFL-er Marcus
Jones
at the “TUF 10” finale, and suddenly, one fight later he
was squaring off with Slice on a pay-per-view main card.

“The next thing I know I’m fighting Kimbo and nothing was the same
after that,” he said. “It was just totally different. My whole life
changed just like that.”

Mitrione stopped Slice in the second round at UFC 113 and went on
to a career that has included wins over the likes of Gabriel
Gonzaga
, Shawn
Jordan
, Derrick
Lewis
and Roy Nelson.
Perhaps most notably, he has bested a pair of icons at opposite
ends of the MMA spectrum in Slice and Fedor
Emelianenko
. Not bad for a guy who just wanted to sell protein
shakes.

Today, Mitrione is still going strong in Bellator, and even at 41
years old, he has no designs on slowing down.

“I’ll be honest with you, I feel like I’m a rather spry old man,”
he said. “I feel that as long as I want to compete and my body
holds up, then I’ll do it. I feel that I’m happy in my life, I’m
happy doing what I do, I’m happy with the lifestyle that my career
provides. I feel like I’m still at the top of my game. I’m down for
whatever. I’m a name that stays on the marquee. I’ve been in this
industry and the game for 11 years, man.

“I was on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ in 2009, and we recorded in May.
Literally 11 years ago. I’ve been here a long time, a whole lot
longer than most other people have. I’m still having a damn good
time doing it. It forces me to stay in shape. It lets me be
competitive and athletic. I view the sport of mixed martial arts as
physical chess. I enjoy it, I get a hell of a kick out of it, and
I’m good at it.” Advertisement


LEAVE A REPLY