September 11, 2009

by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo courtesy Spike TV)

While the bright lights of The Ultimate Fighter stage may be initially overwhelming for some, former professional football player Matt Mitrione has been there done that.

A standout at Purdue University before moving onto the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, Mitrione explains that there is nothing the UFC could throw at him that he wouldn’t have faced in a larger capacity before in his professional career.

“I don’t think I’ll be fazed or distracted or affected by it,” he explained to MMAWeekly.com. “I played in front of over 100,000 people at Michigan.

“Even when you’re on the show and you start throwing, someone would make comments like, ‘Oh, those lights are really bright,’ or, ‘Wow, everybody’s watching you there.’ I don’t feel like I was affected by that situation whatsoever.”

With less than a year’s worth of MMA training under his belt heading into TUF, Mitrione was asked if he felt like he’d be the underdog or a mark that other fighters would use to get an easy win over.

“I didn’t really think about it that much, to be honest with you,” he said. “I’m a pretty imposing figure. I’m big and have a little bit of size to me, and I have a pretty progressive mental attitude as well.

“Maybe initially (the other fighters thought that), but once they got to know me they kind of figured that I was going to be worth my salt to a certain extent.”

While he might have been the new guy to the sport, Mitrione refused to let the other well known fighters intimidate him heading in.

“Even when I played (football) I never read bios on people,” he explained. “All it’s going to do is trip you out.

“They may show that this guy has done all this and that, and if you don’t have those accolades or opportunities, there’s a chance you can freak yourself over those credentials. I’d rather not know that, and just go in there, be mean, let it fly and fight to the best of my abilities without any preconceived notions or ideas.”

While for the most part Mitrione enjoyed time with his cast mates, he admits, living in a fishbowl of a reality television series does create tension and confrontation between people.

“There were people that responded to that in different ways,” stated Mitrione. “In a reality situation, there’s no media, no distractions, there’s just us being us.

“You can only sit around, eat dinner, swim in the pool, when sooner or later you’re going to start to make things happen either because of frustration, boredom or strategy.”

What wasn’t forced on by living conditions was the true distain between Season 10 coaches Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and “Sugar” Rashad Evans.

“It’s definitely very real,” said Mitrione. “Those two just don’t like each other, plain and simple. They didn’t like each other so much; they bickered all the time.

“They would get ready to fight each other, so even during the show it was like, ‘C’mon, just fight already. Just get it done with.’ One person makes a comment, and the next thing you know, they’re nose to nose rolling up on each other.”

While fans may not know Mitrione’s fate on TUF until after the season finale, regardless of the show’s outcome, he plans to remain in MMA and make a run at a real career in the sport.

“I love competition; I love the feeling of me stepping in there, you stepping in there and let’s see who comes out on top,” he stated. “I’ve been successful in a lot of things. I have this sports nutrition company. I played in the NFL. I’ve had a great, extremely blessed life, and I choose to fight.

“I care about it. I’m passionate about it. I love the sport, the camaraderie, and everything about it. This is something I choose to do and don’t have to do.”

By taking his experience from the NFL and applying it to MMA, Mitrione hopes to make up for his lack of experience and gain an edge over the competition, and add yet another success story to his already full life.

“Check us out on Spike TV every Wednesday at 10 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific) starting on Sept. 16,” said Mitrione in closing. “It should be a lot of fun.

“There’s a lot of personalities on there, a lot of indirect dramatics, a lot of guys getting punched in the face and getting folded up like pretzels – it should be a really good time.”