At Bellator 262 on July 16, Matt Mitrione needs to get a win. Due to some tough luck and a bit of controversy, the seventh-ranked heavyweight has not scored a victory in his last three bouts, dating back to October 2018. However, achieving that goal on Friday night won’t be easy, because not only will he need to overcome fifth-ranked stud talent Tyrell Fortune, but he will also have to hand a loss to someone he considers a friend.
Matt Mitrione on fighting a friend in Tyrell Fortune: ‘Neither one of us wanted this fight’
The circumstances that have led to the longest victory dry spell of his career are unusual. His Bellator letdown against Ryan Bader in the semifinals of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix was a defeat he completely embraces. However, his setbacks to Sergei Kharitonov–in a rematch of a fight that ended in a groin strike no-contest–and Timothy Johnson he believes were far from normal. And he wants to make it clear his current losing skid isn’t normal either.
“Ryan Bader outperformed me, 100%. Ryan Bader beat me with wrestling I was not able to stop,” said Mitrione. “I absolutely smoked Kharitonov. Sent him to the hospital for a ruptured spleen and a broken nose. When he lost two months later to Linton [Vassell], they said his injuries from my fight were not healed and that was one of the primary reasons he got beaten so badly. I lost my mouthpiece, let that frustrate me [during the fight] and then I walked into an uppercut after I just said f*ck it and went after him.
“My most recent fight [against Johnson], I got headbutted. I got headbutted so hard, it knocked me off of my feet and put me on autopilot. I remember virtually nothing from the fight. “Big” John [McCarthy], when he came in to interview [Johnson] was like, ‘I can’t believe this fight didn’t get stopped, did you see this head?’ And his answer was, ‘It’s better to be lucky than to be good.’ The referee didn’t see it, the commission had a chance to overturn it and they chose not to because they said they do not have a rule in place to overturn a blown call.”
Mitrione’s upcoming bout inside the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut mirrors the Bader fight. In that, he will once again match skills with a highly credentialed amateur wrestler in Fortune. His failures to stop the current Bellator heavyweight champion’s wrestling then, is why he is +275 underdog heading into this fight.
The assumption for some will be that Mitrione, 42, will have difficulties stuffing the grappling advances of his 11 years younger foe. However, the man known as “Meathead” says that loss to the former light heavyweight champion taught him a lot, and was a wake-up call to the areas of training he neglected. And how heavyweight wrestling really does differ from what comes at you in the lower weight-classes.
“Bader’s a light heavyweight that’s a very conventional wrestler. There’s not many heavyweights that shoot. So that was a completely foreign situation that I had never had before. The only one [similar] would be Curtis Blaydes, that’s a shooting wrestler. I had never felt the urgency of a shot like I felt with Bader. It sucked to get ridden like a pony for so long but he did exactly what he had to do.”
“The Bader fight showed me a lot of things I did not focus on. That I neglected. I’ve addressed a lot of those. I wrestle at Purdue University on a regular basis. I wrestle their 197 pounders, their heavyweights. I wrestle with their coaches. I feel like I’ve addressed a whole lot more than I ever did before and I feel like I’m prepared for it.”