Bellator 194: “Mitrione vs. Nelson 2” comes to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. this Friday night (Feb. 16, 2018), featuring a clash of titans in the second bout of the promotion’s Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament as Matt Mitrione (12-5) faces off with ”Big Country” Roy Nelson (23-14) for a highly-anticipated rematch.
Mitrione has been on a tear since coming to Bellator MMA in 2016, picking up three straight knockout wins, including one against former PRIDE Heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko. That big finish at Madison Square Garden earned Mitrione a place in this tournament to crown a new Bellator MMA Heavyweight champion. Nelson, meanwhile, has also been successful in Bellator and boasts one of the most legendary chins in the Heavyweight division. He regularly went the distance in UFC with fighters like Stipe Miocic, Junior dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum. With 14 of 23 wins by knockout (just under 61 percent), including one against Matt Mitrione, “Big Country” is a big force to be reckoned with.
Nelson recently spoke with MMAmania.com about his plans to make history repeat itself in the Bellator cage and advance in the tournament toward the world title awaiting the winner.
“I’m feeling pretty good! You know it’s one step closer to the championship belt and that’s all I need to know. It’s something that, you know, Matt’s definitely improved but so have I so it’s one of those things that the old man’s gonna win.”
That confidence for the “old man” comes from having finished Mitrione in convincing fashion. Nelson doesn’t take for granted, though, that Mitrione hasn’t gotten better in the interim.
“He’s definitely improved by having more fights, he knocks people out, I think he’s more athletic now because I think he understands the game a little bit better. Overall, he’s a better fighter than five years ago.”
Knocking out people is almost all he does -- 92 percent of Mitrione’s wins (11 out of 12) come by knockout ... and he has never submitted a single foe. When you’re as big as “Meathead” that tends to work out. Now, it was Nelson’s turn to ask a question since he heard that Mitrione claims Nelson “capitalized on his mistakes” when they fought last time.
“Did he tell you what his mistakes were?”
Mitrione didn’t specifically name his mistake from the fight so Nelson was quick to provide his own.
“I think it was signing the contract.”
Quick wit and a hard right hand are a one-two combination for “Big Country.” Nelson also decided to dispel the myth that Mitrione took the fight with him “on short notice.”
“(He acts like) he was training for a fight and then got a phone call and he’s like, ‘Oh this is short notice,’ but it’s been six weeks (since TUF 16). That’s not short notice!”
UFC told the story it wanted to tell going into that show. Nelson intends to tell his own story at Bellator 194 ... and it’s got a little twist you wouldn’t expect.
“I think it’s going to be a fun fight. The way I look at it is he thinks he’s fighting for the Heavyweight title, I think I’m thinking for the Heavyweight title, and then my next fight will be fighting the Light Heavyweight champ, so I’ll be the Heavyweight champion and the Light Heavyweight champion for Bellator!”
It’s clear Nelson believes Bader will defeat “King Mo” and that he’ll face Bader in the next round. Even though “Big Country” is no 205-er, it’s still a way to tease Bader about potentially losing to him. Whether it’s Bader or Mitrione though wrestling isn’t first on his agenda.
“The difference is if someone’s willing to punch with you, I’m willing to punch with them back. I think in my last fight with Matt, Matt kept on throwing and wanted to punch me, and I was game for that. Hopefully, he’ll want to punch with me some more, and he won’t try to run.”
It may also be that Nelson doesn’t want to chase down Mitrione because he was a little under the weather for part of his training camp.
“It’s actually been a pretty rough camp, it’s probably one of my shittier ones, but at the end of the day you’re going to see my hand raised on Friday. The biggest thing has just been, it was flu season, and you know I’m old so just getting up out of bed just sucks, all that good stuff. For like two weeks (I) couldn’t get out of bed where that was virus was going around killing people. So I wanted to make sure I didn’t kill my (training) partners and you know all that good stuff.”
Not that he’s going to let being sick for a little bit stop him from achieving his goals.
“It’s just one of those camps where it just sucks, but I just know that at the end of the day that I’m going to beat Matt so that’s all that matters.”
Since Nelson is feeling confident about his chances this weekend, I asked him to revisit the second round of the tournament and pick whether it would be better to fight Lawal or Bader.
“That one’s a catch 22 because you know I want Mo to win, but I’d rather fight Ryan, but at the end of the day it’s a step closer to the belt. I am a Heavyweight, and those are 205ers, so they need to go back down to 205 -- and that’s about it.”
In conclusion, “Big Country” vows that nobody is going to stand in his way — not former opponents who want a rematch, not Light Heavyweights going up in weight class, not a damn man alive.
“I really don’t care because the way I look at it is I’ve got three steps. Right now, even with a cold and being injured, I’m gonna pull myself, drag myself up the mountain and go one step at a time.”
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Mitrione vs. Nelson 2” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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