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He’s the odds-on favorite to win the thing, but Matt Mitrione initially wasn’t very excited about Bellator’s upcoming heavyweight tournament.

As recently announced, the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018 will kick off in early 2018, with eight fighters – four heavyweights and four light heavyweights – fighting for the organization’s vacant heavyweight title.

Mitrione is a 2-1 (+200) favorite to win the grand prix and has the best odds to merge victorious at the end. So, why was he initially bummed when officials approached him about the tourney, which will be held throughout the year over multiple events?

“I’m not good at giving political answers, so I’ll give you an honest answer: I wasn’t really excited, to be honest,” Mitrione told MMAjunkie Rado. ” … I think it would have been a true heavyweight grand prix to fill it with heavyweights. I think it would have been even better to do it in the same night. I think that would have been a lot of fun.

“But that’s not how it went. I think they chose the most athletic, most exciting guys they have, and I think that’s what the draw of the tournament is.”

Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) is coming off a signature career victory – over famed heavyweight, former PRIDE champion and fellow Bellator tourney participant Fedor Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA). Mitrione, an NFL and UFC vet, thought it might’ve given him a fast-track for a shot at the vacant Bellator heavyweight belt.

“I would have originally wanted just a title fight, and then have the winner of the tournament fight me for the title – and I would defend it hopefully once during the middle of the year,” he said.

Instead, he’ll need at least three victories to win the tourney and claim the belt. Currently, the sports books (and MMAjunkie readers) feel he’s the favorite to do so.

Does he think those odds are right?

“Yeah, I think I expected it, to be honest,” he said. “I feel like I’m the best heavyweight Bellator has to offer, and I say rather readily that on any given day, I’m the best heavyweight in the world. I had just a couple of missteps (during my UFC career), and it cost me a pretty substantial amount in my name value, but I feel like when it comes down to scrapping, I’m one of the best in the world. So I’m not surprised I’m the favorite.

“Then again, in that same breath, we have three light heavyweights and a bloated middleweight. If it was a full-fledged heavyweight grand prix or heavyweight tournament, then I think it might possibly be a little different.”

Mitrione specifically mentioned Cheick Kongo (27-10-2 MMA, 9-2 BMMA) and Sergei Kharitonov (26-6 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) as true heavyweights he would’ve liked to see in the field.

However, those three light heavyweights – reigning 205-pound champ Ryan Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), former UFC titleholder Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) and ex-Strikeforce champ Muhammed Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA), as well the “bloated middleweight,” multi-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) – add an interesting wrinkle to the grand-prix field, he said.

“I think the smaller bodies make it a much more interesting tournament, for sure,” Mitrione said.

For more on the upcoming Bellator schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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