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Matt Mitrione Would Love to Welcome Jon Jones to Heavyweight Division, Thinks He Could Beat Him

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Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Matt Mitrione hasn't been in the cage for almost 11 months due to injuries, but on Wednesday's MMA Hour, at one point he was talking about fighting one of the biggest fish in the sea.

In an interview detailing him struggling with injuries and financial concerns for much of the past year, Mitrione said that if Jon Jones wanted to test out being a heavyweight, he'd love to be the guy to introduce him to the new weight class.

"Over time he (Jones) went from a pretty cool guy, humble, to as arrogant as I can handle," Mitrione said. "He seems really disingenuous, blah, not my flavor of a human being. I even told (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva, if he talks of going to heavyweight, I'd love to welcome Jon Jones to heavyweight. I'd love to try and punch you in the face."

Mitrione joked that he could be the next James Irvin, the light heavyweight who faced, and got knocked out in a minute, when Anderson Silva moved up to light heavyweight for one fight. But he also felt he could beat Jones, while making clear he respected his fighting talent, "Yeah, I think I can beat Jon Jones. I think on a good day I can beat anyone in the world.

"I'm not a fan of Jon Jones as a person, but I like him as a fighter. He's athletic, has a lot of talent. As a fighter, I understand why he said `No,' (to fighting Chael Sonnen at UFC 151). He has a lot to lose. But a lot of people are correct."

Still, he joined the chorus of those who was ultimately critical of Jones' decision.

"You're being paid a pretty ridiculous amount of money, branded the face of UFC, the face of a new division at Nike, there's some responsibility you have. At some point it doesn't matter who it is, let's get down and dance."

"I don't see Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos, or Cain Velasquez saying no to a fight with any heavyweight," said Mitrione. "I think that Jon should have taken it because of the situation he's been put in and what he's been given. To whom a lot has been given, a lot is expected."

Unfortunately for the 34-year-old former Purdue football player who bounced around the NFL for a few years, he hasn't had a lot of good days in the last year, going from one injury to another. Then problems with opponents left him on the shelf, with him now scheduled to face Phil De Fries (9-1, 1 no contest) on the Dec. 29 show in Las Vegas.

"I know nothing about him at all," he said. "I don't know if he's a ground guy or a stand-up guy. It's irrelevant, it's so far away from now. I'm practicing on what I need to develop."

But he's looking to fight sooner.

"Hopefully something happens that somebody has to bail out of a fight, some heavyweight," he said. "I'm getting my way back to shape. A couple of weeks I'll be in good shape. If some heavyweight bails, I'd love to be the first replacement."

Mitrione said he almost took a fight with Travis Browne on Aug. 4, even though injured.

"Financially, I actually considered taking that fight just for the paycheck. It would have sucked, been disrespectful to the fans, to Travis, but financially, it's hard to say, `No.' You know they'll give you a good paycheck for stepping up and saving a fight."

He said the physical problems started right before his decision loss to Cheick Kongo in his last fight, back at UFC 137 on Oct. 29 in Las Vegas, when he suffered a sports hernia.

"I couldn't kick and I couldn't do much on my left side," he said. "Am I blaming it for my loss, no, I lost due to lack of experience."

Mitrione (5-1) underwent surgery for the hernia in December. Then his elbow started bothering him and he had surgery to remove bone chips. Then he came to Boca Raton, Fla., and started training with Rashad Evans and the Blackzillians camp, got another injury that he didn't disclose, and that led to another surgery.

He was at first, before the latest injury, hoping to fight in July, which moved to August, then September, and then October. One prospective opponent, Dave Herman, wound up fighting Roy Nelson. Another, Rob Broughton, had visa issues which resulted in him not being allowed in the country, so he was cut. He said that he spoke to UFC, with them running down every heavyweight on the roster, and even a number of guys not even on the roster, but so many guys were injured. He said there was one guy, who he wouldn't name, who turned down the fight, and then the next day the guy posted that he would fight anyone at any time.

"Here I am, I had nobody to fight at all."

He said even Kongo's name popped up but Kongo had no interest in fighting him since he beat him the first time and there was no reason for a rematch, and nothing to gain. Finally, when De Fries agreed, the earliest they could schedule it was Dec. 29, because with UFC 151 being canceled, so many fights were moved to shows between now and early December that there were no slots open.

"I made good money with the UFC, but I haven't fought in 10 1/2 months, so I am so strapped for cash," he said. "I'm living on my savings from my NFL money, my reasonable human being money.

"Financially, it's rough," he said. "Thank God UFC paid me as well as they did while I was fighting. The money carried me for nine-and-a-half to ten months. I made maybe $6,000 this entire year. But I haven't had to borrow money from anyone. I live reasonably. But if UFC didn't pay me as well as they did, I'd have been broke six, seven, months ago."

Mitrione has fought six times in the UFC since coming off The Ultimate Fighter show at the end of 2009. Even though in his first three fights he was still under his Ultimate Fighter contract, which was $8,000 to show and $8,000 to win, with three fights in a year and a fight of the night bonus for his win over Joey Beltran, he said he made $180,000 in 2010 and between $110,000 and $120,000 for fighting three times in 2011.

"I have to pay taxes out of that," said Mitrione, who noted he's supporting three kids. "I pay about 40 percent tax, pay for my camp, for 180, 170, I pull 100 grand, which is still a lot of money. At 120, I realistically brought home 70 grand."