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Matt Mitrione: Stipe Miocic still No. 1 heavyweight, no matter who wins Bellator tournament


Don’t expect Matt Mitrione to get a swelled head about his position in the sport if he wins the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix.

Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) competes in the second tournament quarterfinal bout tonight at Bellator 194 when he rematches Roy Nelson (22-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) in the Paramount-televised headliner at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., following prelims on MMAjunkie.

If Mitrione ends up winning the eight-man tournament, he would have gone through a group of names which could potentially include Nelson, Muhammad Lawal, Ryan Bader, Fedor Emelianenko, Frank Mir, and Chael Sonnen. Those are strong additions to an already solid career resume, but Mitrione isn’t getting overzealous about what it would all mean.

Even if he goes through the strongest crop of opponents possible, Mitrione, No. 12 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, doesn’t believe he should be elevated to the top spot. He said that honor would still rightfully belong to UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (18-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC).

“No, I do not (think winning the tournament makes me the top heavyweight),” Mitrione told MMAjunkie. “Stipe is the No. 1 guy in the world. I don’t think anybody can argue that at all.”

Mitrione was more than willing to heap praise on Miocic, who is the most successful heavyweight champion in UFC history. However, he said he would love the opportunity to fight against him one day, even if he knows it’s not realistic given the current MMA landscape.

“I think it would be really dope to have the chance to compete against him,” Mitrione said. “If the Ali Act ever got passed, I think that would be really dope. And I think it would be great for the fans. Then I find out, ‘Are you really that good or not?’

“I think it would be great to have – to get rid of individual promotions. You can’t compete against each other, and I think that’s kind of silly. The American League and the National League (in baseball) compete against each other. It happens all the time in every other sport, so why not this one? It doesn’t make sense.”

Cross promotional matchups seem off the table for the likes of Bellator and UFC, but by the time the tournament is complete, it’s entirely possible the heavyweight division looks different. Mitrione knows that, and it’s the primary reason he’s not trying to look too far ahead.

Mitrione suffered a first-round knockout loss to Nelson in a December 2012 bout under the UFC banner. He said “Big Country” is his largest threat among tournament participants, and while he won’t claim to be the top heavyweight in the world with a win at Bellator 194, Mitrione is willing to take the label as the best in Bellator.

“I look forward to proving to myself that I am the best heavyweight in Bellator,” Mitrione said. “Roy Nelson, he’s the next person, and he beat me. It would be foolish to say anybody else (is a tougher fight).”

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

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