More than a few big names with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) have left the promotion for greener shades of money at Bellator MMA, but Matt Mitrione doesn't think he'll be joining them. Yet.
The heavyweight told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour (transcribed by Luke Thomas at MMAfighting.com) that despite his free agency status he's in a "good spot" with UFC. He also has some "unfinished business" with one Travis Browne.
Mitrione revealed he's received a "very nice offer" from Bellator MMA which he's forwarded on to his employers to see if UFC decides to match and keep the six-year veteran put.
"If they do, awesome. Great, then we can have a conversation," said Mitrione, adding UFC has two weeks to respond to the offer but he doesn't expect it to take that long.
"I'd be happy with the offer from Bellator, but I feel that I have unfinished business in UFC," he said. "If the UFC matched, my first fight would be with Travis [Browne] again. That's my money fight. I want that fight. I was beating him, I'm better than him, the world knows it, the world saw it, especially if they're calling fouls where he can't stop my forward aggression coming forwards. Travis is going to have a really bad night and he knows it, too. The world knows it."
Mitrione, 37, is one the rare fighters who began his MMA career right in the pros, compiling a 9-5 record in UFC after graduating from The Ultimate Fighter: Season 10. Earning the nickname "Meathead" from Rashad Evans on the show, he was on a three fight win streak as recently as 2014 before running into Ben Rothwell and the controversial Browne fight.
Nevertheless, if UFC doesn't match the offer, Mitrione says he's comfortable moving on because "the free market is becoming legit."
Benson Henderson signed with Bellator MMA in February for an estimated $200,000, a bump in pay from the $48,000 to show he was receiving in UFC. Meanwhile, Josh Thomson says he'll make an extra $30,000 in sponsorships alone in Bellator MMA, as the company doesn't have a monopolistic control over the marketing of its fighters.
If UFC does waive the rights to "Meathead" it poses a bit of a question about who he'd fight in Bellator's notoriously thin heavyweight division. Other than Cheick Kongo, who defeated Mitrione in 2011, it's a bit of a dog's breakfast. But if he wants to clasp a belt around his waist before he's 40, Bellator might actually be a great career move.
Where would you like Mitrione to land? Sound off in the comments!