TORONTO – Few fighters are able to step into the UFC’s octagon and compete at the highest level of the sport with no prior professional experience, but that’s exactly what heavyweight Matt Mitrione has done.
Growing up in front of the UFC’s audience hasn’t been easy on Mitrione (6-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), and as just one of two active fighters on the roster to have competed in all of his professional bouts inside the octagon, “Meathead” admits he’s felt the pressures involved with having to learn the sport against the highest level of opposition.
“It’s stressful,” Mitrione told MMAjunkie.com of growing up in the UFC. “That’s probably the most stress I get versus performance or whatever else is the fact that whatever I do is on the fly.”
Typically fighters must put together a strong MMA record against quality opponents in order to even be considered for a roster spot, but Mitrione was a special case.
The former NFL player was recruited as a cast member for “The Ultimate Fighter 10? in 2009, and despite a quick submission loss in the quarterfinal round was presented with the opportunity to make his official MMA debut in the UFC at the conclusion of the series.
Mitrione admits to having minimal knowledge of the sport when filming began for the show, which he claims is the reason for his early exit from the tournament.
“I was training, training from day one, for six months to the time I was on ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ so I didn’t know s–t from anything,” Mitrione said. “I knew nothing at all. So by the time I go there and they’re like, ‘Oh you got submitted by James McSweeney.’ I didn’t know what the hell a guillotine was when I got caught in a guillotine.”
From a time when he didn’t even know the names of techniques commonly used in MMA, Mitrione has developed his skillset to the point where he is considered one of the heavyweight division’s most exciting fighters.
Even though he is older and still much less experienced than a majority of his fellow UFC heavyweights, Mitrione isn’t worried about whether or not time is on his side and knows if he continues to win fights, his chance of earning a world title are just as good as anyone else.
“It could be (a race against time), but I’m not worried about what I could accomplish,” Mitrione said. “My goals, my aspirations are to get a belt.”
With a UFC 165 main card bout against Brendan Schaub (9-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) just around the corner, Mitrione will get his opportunity to move another step closer to a title fight. And while some fighters in his situation would be eager to make the most of their time and attempt to rush up the rankings, Mitrione is happy with how he’s been developed by UFC matchmakers and will continue to take any fight that’s offered until the championship is around his waist.
“The UFC has me on a good pace,” Mitrione said. “They have me jump up when it’s time to jump up and they have me fall back when it’s time to fall back, and I’m good with that, it doesn’t matter. As long as I give 100 percent in any situation that I’m in, I’m cool with that.”
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