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Matt Mitrione: Bellator grand prix pairing vs. Roy Nelson made no sense at first, but now it does


UNCASVILLE, Conn. – When Matt Mitrione found out his first opponent for Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix would be Roy Nelson, he had some questions.

“I asked them, I was like, ‘How does that make sense?’” Mitrione told MMAjunkie. “Roy’s arguably the No. 2 guy in the division. Explain that to me. Is there any seeding or are you just’ – like, what was the logic behind that?”

But then the more Mitrione thought about it, the less he really cared.

“Either I beat Roy when I have the strap, or I beat Roy to get the strap,” Mitrione said. “What the hell difference does it make? So it is what it is. I’d have to beat him sooner or later, anyways. So let it be what it is.”

Mitrione, who most recently knocked out former PRIDE champ and all-time-great Fedor Emelianenko to add a third straight win to his unbeaten Bellator record, had in fact been expecting a title shot. He was reluctant at first, as he’d told MMAjunkie before, but ultimately acquiesced to the idea of a year-long, eight-man tournament.

Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) and Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) meet in the headliner of Bellator 194, which takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The winner of that gets to meet the winner between 205-pound champ Ryan Bader and Muhammed Lawal.

The grand prix was set in motion last month, when Chael Sonnen, who’d competed at 185 pounds for most his life, beat former 205-pound UFC champion Quinton Jackson at Bellator 192. Sonnen will now meet the winner of an April bout between Emelianenko and former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir.

A win in Friday’s headliner represents a chance to get to the semifinals and, of course, one step closer to Bellator’s vacant heavyweight belt. But, for Mitrione, it would also mean avenging a 2012 “The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale” encounter that saw Nelson walking away with a knockout win.

Or it could, anyway, if Mitrione was even approaching it as a rematch in the first place.

“I understand it’s a rematch on paper, but I don’t really feel like it is,” Mitrione said. “He might, sure. I don’t really care how he feels. I feel like – just the growth, in itself. I’ve had, what, 200 percent more fights than I had at the time. When I fought Roy, I had what, six fights; (it was) Roy’s 24th or 25th. So a lot of experience in situations I didn’t.

“We also have a very different perspective on fighting. It’s in the record books that he beat me. Knocked me down. First guy to TKO me, good for him. But I don’t really consider this a rematch.”

To hear more from Mitrione, check out the video above.

And for more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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