MMA Fighting briefly spoke to Mitrione shortly thereafter about the fight and whether he feels it's personal after Kongo knocked out his good friend Pat Barry at UFC Live on Versus 4 last month. Consider this an authentic "Mitrione Minute" (give or take a minute or two).
Ariel Helwani: Do you like this fight?
Matt Mitrione: I do. I feel that it's a really sexy matchup. It's two guys that are at a good point in their careers. I'm developing at a good pace, and I think that Cheick is really making a push for his title run. So I think it's going to be a fun fight. I know Cheick is game, obviously he is. He's resilient, and I feel that I am as well. And I think it's the name that will be a lot of fun. Hopefully fans will want to see it -- seems to have gotten a good response so far.
Is this a personal fight for you because Kongo just knocked out your good friend, Pat Barry?
No. I feel like we're all grown adults. We all fight for a living, that's what our paycheck, so there's no mixed up feelings in that. I don't feel like I need to go out on a vendetta for Pat. I didn't feel that way with [Sean] McCorkle [because he lost to Christian Morecraft], I didn't feel that way when I fought Tim Hague [who beat Barry]. It sucks that Barry lost. Hopefully someday he can fight Cheick Kongo again and square up on it, but you never know. As far as for me, it's a fight for me and Cheick and our paychecks and our records and our legacies.
He's developed into more of a ground and pound fighter over the years, so do you think he will try to take you down more often than your previous opponents did?
I think ground and pound is a much better option than standing with me, but when you take me down, that means you're going to really find out what my ground game is like. It's a pretty well-kept secret right now; nobody talks about it too much except for me. I think that Cheick lives by the sword and dies by the sword, so I think he would want to stand up and bang with me, but hopefully I test his chin a little bit and his chin does not hold up.
What have you thought of the way Kongo has looked in the Octagon during his last few fights?
I think his last couple performances have been a bit lackluster, but you know, he had a back problem. He had some pretty serious issues going on, and he finally had surgery and got it fixed and said he felt a lot better. You could really tell in that Pat Barry fight, even though it didn't take very long, Cheick was bouncing on his feet, real light on his toes, had some good movement, felt real comfortable at rolling his hips in some punches and some kicks. I mean, it looked good. So I know that Cheick is healthy, I know Cheick is game, and I know that he'll come out ready to earn his money.
You spent a good amount of time training for Christian Morecraft at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. Will you be doing the same this time around?
I will be. I'm probably going to do a little split camp. I'm working with Rich Franklin right now for "Little Nog," and he's got a pretty good wrestling coach up there named Ryan Root -- I'm spending some time with him. Rich has a pretty good boxing coach, as well. So I will be splitting time in Cincinnati with them, Indianapolis with coach Tom Erikson at Purdue and quite a bit in Vegas, working with coach Ray Sefo, Maurice Jackson, who's a really tall 6-foot-8 kickboxer and coach Neil Melanson, that's my guy.
On the Versus post-fight show, Stephan Bonnar and I discussed whether you should be fighting top-five heavyweights now. He thoughts so, but I said that the UFC should let you develop more and not push you too fast. How many more fights do you think you need to win before you are in the title picture?
Honestly, there's not a set number of fights. I don't know if it would be, and assuming I'm lucky enough to win here, that it would be two or three or seven or 10 more, or maybe this one. It kind of all depends on how my body reacts to the training, how quickly I pick things up, how fluid I feel doing the things that I need to be doing. So it's kind of more than a feeling versus a number.
Rich has been really good for me, and we were talking about some stuff, and I was telling him that I would watch film 40 or 50 times after each fight and all I see are the horrible things that I do and how against a better caliber person I would get worked over. And he told me, 'Look, I don't even watch film on myself anymore because all I see are the horrible things that I do and I get too down on myself. So I don't even pay attention to it. I think it in the middle of the fight, like, Damn, I should be doing this better, but I don't go back and mull over it because it just drives me nuts.' And I think that's part of my development. I do mull over a lot things. It's my football history, it's my background that I watch a sh--t ton of film. I watch so much film all the time. I self-scout myself, I scout everybody, I have other people do it for me as well to make sure I pick things up. It's part of my development. So as long as I can pick up my own game and not critique it to death, and I feel like I picked it up at a good pace, then it's not a number fights. Then, like I said, I will be ready.