By Melinda Evette
One of the most high-profile Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) defectors, Matt Mitrione makes his promotional debut this Friday, June 24, 2016, at Bellator Dynamite 2 in St Louis, Missouri against Carl “Badwater” Seumanutafa. Mitrione's last fight was in January against Travis Browne at UFC Fight Night 81. That fight was to become very significant to Mitrione's immediate future.
The contest against Browne was the last on Mitrione's contract with the UFC, allowing him to receive exclusive offers from other promotions. It resulted in Mitrione needing surgery to repair his orbital bone. However, Mitrione would also appeal the technical knockout defeat he suffered at the fists of Browne to the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission.
"I can't fucking see! I'm seeing double Bud."
- Matt Mitrione
In an interview with MMA Fighting, Mitrione stated that fighters need to be protected from themselves, that given an option, most fighters will try to fight through any challenge during a fight -- even when that challenge is overcoming being blinded by illegal eye pokes.
Although coming off of a TKO loss against Browne, Matt Mitrione was a highly sought after free agent immediately following that fight. He received offers from several competing companies, finally settling on Bellator MMA as his new home. We had the opportunity to speak with Mitrione during a Bellator media call to promote his upcoming fight.
Are you looking forward to your Bellator debut?
MM: I can't wait. I'm excited to move on to this portion of my life, a brand new promotion for me and it's a brand new audience for the most part. I look forward to getting out there and putting on a show.
Do you think it puts you in contention for the vacant heavyweight title?
MM: The good thing is that's not really my business. I don't really care if it does or not. I just go out there and fight who they tell me to fight. As long as the paychecks don't bounce I'm there to do work. The powers that be can think about that.
After I put this ass whooping on Carl then, you know, we can talk about it if that's what they want to talk about. If not then I'll take whatever fight I can on short notice. Get in there and stay busy.
Why is fighting on short notice something you're targeting?
MM: I need a carrot in front of me at all times. I don't do well sitting on the shelf. The wheels are going to fall off sooner or later and I don't want to be sitting around when they do. So if I can get in there, get active, get busy then that's something I sure as hell want to do. Plus I only get paid when I get work so let's do it man.
What lessons did you take from the Browne fight? Did you make any changes in your strategy or game plan because of it?
MM: I took a couple of things away from it. I think mostly that you can't necessarily force a fight and you can't change the way you fight to appease others, either your opponent or referee or whatever else. You have to fight the way you do.
You know, it's the hurt game, the fight business. You don't just fight for fun, you fight for your career and a paycheck so sometimes you have to be smart about what you do. Honestly, that [might be] ambiguous but that’s what I took away from it.
It didn't modify anything in how I do, I'm still highly aggressive, I still come forward. I still throw heavy leather. But maybe some tactics and some ways that I approach getting into certain positions or combinations have changed.
How do you feel about the way your appeal of the Travis Browne fight played out?
The person that kind of railroaded that meeting, he was pretty much, 'Look this is how I feel about it blah blah blah'. He disregarded all information and facts. It's a shame but I'm sure there is some hungry contingency lawyer that wants to take it further and go after some money and I'm down for those conversations because I know my case is strong and I know my position is valid.
You're still planning to further your appeal of the athletic commission decision with part of your argument being that fighters need to be protected from themselves. Have you instructed your corner any different in the case that your referee fails you? Have you given instructions to your corner to help protect you in that type of situation?
MM: If you want to be technical about it, it never should have gotten that point in the first place. In the middle of the fight, when the referee saw that I was gouged in my eye for the second time and didn't stop it for thirty five seconds after nine exchanges, I said, 'I can't fucking see! I'm seeing double Bud.'
The fight should've been called right then and there. It should've been called a disqualification or no contest due to being impaired from an infraction. So really, if you want to be technical about it, there's nothing I've told my corner. But it's the fact that it never should've happened in the first place. It never should [get] to that point.
"I see me punching Carl in his face and putting my shins on his body until he decides he doesn't want to play anymore."
- Matt Mitrione
MM: No, I have not. Honestly, I think this is just one travesty of appointing [a referee]. Gary Foreman should have never been involved in a fight of that magnitude. Ever. He has no qualifications to be there, he shouldn't have ever been there.
I don't think that's the case with anybody else. I don't expect that to be the case with anybody else. If they're going to be appointed [by a State Athletic Commission] they should be qualified and sanctioned. They should have the trust and competence to do so.
I'm not going to change my career or give any kind of worries about it as long as Gary Foreman is not my referee, I don't care who it is.
Carl "Badwater" Seumanutafa that has 10 wins, 9 of them from knockouts. How do you see your debut fight play out?
MM: I see me punching Carl in his face and putting my shins on his body until he decides he doesn't want to play anymore.
In a separate contract from Bellator MMA, Mitrione also became the color commentator the promotion's newest combat venture, Bellator Kickboxing. Both he and the promotion had their debut in Turin, Italy, marking Bellator's kickboxing and the franchise's first international show.
Your first gig as Bellator Kickboxing color commentator was in April on the Turin, Italy card. How did you feel that went?
MM: It was interesting. I don't get nervous for fights but I was really nervous for the response and the review. And you know, it was nice.
It was received relatively well, and obviously there [are] things I have to get better at, but I'm cutting my teeth in front of a national audience. It was exciting and I enjoyed it. Hopefully, they'll give me another chance.
Bellator Dynamite 2 airs live on Spike TV Friday June 24th, 2016. Also available in Japan on AbemaTV.
• Matt Mitrione vs. Carl Seumanutafa
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Bellator 157: Dynamite 2 takes place on June 24, 2016 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri.