Last week, top mixed martial art’s free agent Matt Mitrione (9-5) joined Ariel Helwani’s “MMA Hour” show and revealed that he had been fielding offers from multiple promotions, including a great bid he had received from Bellator MMA. In a very rare move, Helwani had Mitrione rejoin his popular talk show for a second straight week to announce that the paperwork has been finalized, making Mitrione the newest member of Bellator MMA’s heavyweight division.
“There comes a time in every athlete’s life, where the scenarios change and the landscape has eroded from what made you fall in love with it initially,” said Mitrione. “It has become that time for me. After a mutually beneficial free agency period, I’ve decided to move my career to Bellator. I’ve enjoyed almost every second of my career and unlike most that switch organizations due to being cut or no longer being able to perform at the sports highest levels, I am bringing a body and skillset that are only getting better and I cannot wait to test my abilities against the best Bellator has to offer.”
Lovingly referred to as “Meathead,” Mitrione is one of the few fighters to have started his professional career with the UFC without previously competing on the regional circuit. His 14-bout stint with that promotion began in 2009, where he faced formidable opponents the likes of: Kimbo Slice, Gabriel Gonzaga, Ben Rothwell, Derrick Lewis, Brendan Schaub, Roy Nelson, Shawn Jordan and Travis Brown amongst others.
Prior to competing in MMA, Mitrione earned a scholarship to play defensive tackle for the Purdue Boilermakers football team, not far from where he grew up in Springfield, Ill. After college, he played in the NFL for the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings until 2005.
At the conclusion of his professional football career, the Shotokan Karate Black Belt focused all of his attention on the sport of MMA. Mitrione spent time training with Duke Roufus and the highly-respected Roufusport team before landing with the famed Blackzilians camp in Boca Raton, FLA, where he trains today.
The extremely popular and well-spoken Mitrione has allowed the judges to determine the result of his fight only twice, againstJoey Beltran and Cheick Kongo, both of whom currently fight for Bellator MMA. His entertaining fighting style has earned him recognition with “Performance of the Night” (twice) and “Fight of the Night” accolades.
Prior to his last fight with his former promotion, Mitrione was forced to participate in a media session barefoot, as his shoes didn’t adhere to the strict company uniform policy. He will have no such problems at Bellator, where he is free to secure his own sponsors and keep his feet warm with the footwear of his choosing.
Bellator has been bolstering their heavyweight division as of late, and Mitrione becomes the second heavyweight free agent the promotion has signed in as many months, as Sergei Kharitonov joined the fray in February. The division is currently championed by Vitaly Minakov, and includes other top names like Slice, Bobby Lashley, Cheick Kongo, Vinicius “Spartan,” Tony Johnson, Justin Wren, Dan Charles and Augusto Sakai.