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Matt Mitrione — ‘We need fighting as an escape from the reality that we’re in now’

Matt Mitrione interview

Bellator Recharged kicked off Sat., April 25 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network. The look back at historic moments and matches from Bellator MMA included a revisit of Matt Mitrione vs. Roy Nelson 2 from Bellator 194 back in 2018.

In a highly anticipated rematch Mitrione eked out a majority decision when one of the three judges felt the bout had been a 28-28 draw. Despite that anticlimactic score it didn’t stop Mitrione from advancing to the next round of the Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament.

Today MMA Mania talks to Mitrione about CBS Sports Network’s partnership for Bellator Recharged and he’s been holding up during the global pandemic, which from his cheerful demeanor seems to be pretty well all things considered.

“I live in Indiana, and we’re all taking this pretty lightly, so don’t worry. Everybody’s pretty much even keel and roughly the same as we were before (save for) a little bit more house time. But everything’s good brother, no sweat.”

That may seem surprising since as of this writing Indiana had nearly 16,000 cases of COVID-19 with over 800 deaths, so while it’s not anywhere the numbers seen in New York or Washington, it’s far from zero. Mitrione’s a “let what comes may” kind of guy though.

“Yeah my ex-wife’s tripping pretty hard about it, but everybody else is pretty good.”

Since he’s not stressing about it, let’s switch focus for a moment to Bellator Recharged. I asked Mitrione if he had a chance to see the replay of his rematch with Roy Nelson.

“I did not. We were doing... something, I can’t remember, and then we fell asleep. We’re old man. Old people fall asleep early, you know how it goes.”

Re-watching your own fight might not be that exciting anyway, but I did ask Mitrione to revisit his memories of the fight, and it seems there’s no love for “Big Country” at all.

“I was really glad to punch and kick that bloated vagrant as many times as I did — and eventually to beat him.”

Thanks to one judge scoring it a draw though he almost didn’t. Like many fighters and fans alike, he thinks poor education about how to score mixed martial arts is to blame.

“You know I think that’s just people that don’t understand that just because you score a takedown doesn’t score you points. You have to do some damage, you have to move to finish a fight. He won the second half of the third round, 100%, so I’ll even give him the third round, but I beat him two to one pretty handily man.”

The harsh feelings Mitrione has come from extending an olive branch to Nelson after the decision, only to find it slapped right back in his face TWICE.

“I went backstage and went into his locker room to say ‘Hey, tough fight, congrats, you know good job’ (and) whatever else. He and his wife were both SO BOGUS in the locker room, complaining and being just whining yadda-yaddas that I was like ‘You know what dude? I beat your ass handily in that fight, so the fact you’re going to do that much complaining about it and be that much of baby? Get on before you get spit on man’ and I moved on my way brother.”

There are always two sides to every story, so Nelson may remember it differently, but whatever Mr. and Mrs. Nelson did obviously rubbed Mitrione the wrong way. At least if they ever want to run it back a third time, Mitrione learned some key things from the fight.

“I learned a very valuable lesson — a couple of valuable lessons. Roy shoots much lower than what I expected him to. I expected him to be waist high, and he shot mid-thigh, which was really surprising. I did not expect him to be that limber as far as shooting. The second thing is, I made too much space after I made my attacks. I would get in, I’d punch and kick, and I’d move out of way so he couldn’t touch me because he obviously can’t move, but then I made so much space afterwards that I allowed Roy to walk forwards. I’d punch kick him again then I’d move again. Roy’s durability is phenomenal. Even though I don’t like like him or respect him, I have to give him the credit where he deserves. He is obscenely durable and he’s time-tested. He knew to capitalize on certain things I was doing wrong, and he did a good job — but he just got outscored heavily in my opinion.”

As fun as it is to re-watch and revisit these fights from the past, there’s an itch among MMA fans to see something new, and that’s an itch that Mitrione is dying to scratch too.

“I’d like to think that all we have to do is get an e-mail or something from the man (Scott Coker) that says ‘Hey look - if you guys are down to fight right now then respond yes and we’ll put you guys in a pool and we’ll start making match-ups. If you’re not, no trouble, nothing will be held against you, we’ll just hold until everybody gets the all good.’ And then whoever says yes — which I would be one of those people — get out there and start scrapping.”

With UFC planning a slew of shows for May while Bellator isn’t running before June 6, I’m forced to ask Mitrione this question — is UFC going too fast or is Bellator moving too slow?

“You know man, I’m gonna be totally honest with you. I think right now it’s everybody’s individual perspective. If you want to fight, and you want to go get a paycheck, then sign your name — go say yes, I’ll do it. I think the world needs sport right now. The world needs sport primarily because it gives us a way to lose ourselves in the reality that we’re in now, and get caught up in the reality of somebody else without a predetermined outcome, with the drama and the ebb and flow of what’s going to happen and how’s it going to happen. I think we need that in the world, and I think it’s a great idea.”

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that escape too, but I hope for Matt Mitrione’s sake and for everyone in the sport, we don’t get so eager to escape that we make our present reality even worse though. Much respect to Mr. Mitrione though for his time and his candor.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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