Matt Mitrione needed little by way of publicity to hype his appearance on Season 10 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Having been a former pro football player for the NFL’s New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings, Mitrione was already a commodity of interest, but since making his appearance on the show, he’s proven himself more hope than hype.

Matt Mitrione and Joey Beltran at UFC 119

Matt Mitrione and Joey Beltran at UFC 119

In three fights under the UFC banner, Mitrione has gone undefeated, finishing off two of his opponents. In return, he has been rewarded for his efforts by being given a spot near the top of the next installment of UFC Fight for the Troops on Jan. 22.

“I think from my time on TUF to now, I think I’ve done pretty well with things,” Mitrione told MMAWeekly.com. “I haven’t lost in front of a million people, so that’s not too bad.

“I’ve found that I’m good at some things and have a whole lot of room to develop the things that I’m good at, and a lot more to develop the things I suck at.”

One of the areas Mitrione feels he’s improved most on in his time in MMA is knowing the right time to apply his strength in a fight.

“I’d say I’ve probably made the most improvement in muscle control,” stated Mitrione. “You can’t always swing as hard as you want to; you sometimes have to gauge it.

“I’m at that point now that I understand when it’s time for the big shot and when to go for the finish, or when it’s time to pot-shot. I think that’s the craft I’ve developed the most.”

On the flipside, Mitrione admits that his ground game is still a work in progress, but he’s understanding the nuances of it more and more.

“Wrestling and jiu-jitsu are games of centimeters, and if you don’t know this exact maneuver or this exact counter, you can go from escaping something relatively painlessly to fighting your ass off to catch your breath to breaking something,” he said.

All of Mitrione’s hard work will be put to the test as he takes on returning Canadian Tim Hague.

“I think Tim’s a much better fighter than he’s been able to show in the UFC,” commented Mitrione. “Personally, I think he beat (Chris) Tuchscherer (at UFC 109) and I think he’s looked good in his last two fights – both first-round knockouts.

“He’s a good wrestler, scrambles well and is a good jiu-jitsu guy, so I think it will be a good, fun test for me. I think at least we’ll get the troops up on their feet with the show we put on, that’s for damn sure.”

A win would put Mitrione at the top of the up-and-coming fighters in the heavyweight division. Still, even with his highly publicized rise in MMA and his actions in the cage backing him, he understands he is still a developing fighter and will have to go that route over the next year or so.

“It’s really true for me in this situation, because I’m so new to all this,” he admitted. “There’s a lot I’ve got to be very careful in what I ask for and wish for.

“I want to fight very, very good competition. Am I ready to fight upper echelon, top-tier talent? I don’t know. That’s what I want to find out. I would love those challenges, but unfortunately it is one step at a time for me.”

Having proved himself more than just a crossover flash in the pan, Mitrione can continue his ascension towards becoming a legitimate contender with a win at UFC Fight for the Troops on Jan. 22.

“I’d just like to say I appreciate the interest from the fans, and I’m flattered that people would want to have their name on my shorts, so thank you everybody,” he stated, referring to the sponsors that support him.

“My whole family has been involved in the military in some form or fashion my whole life, so I’m honored to be part of it, and I can’t wait to show that we care about the troops and put on a damn good show for everyone.”

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