Matt Mitrione is at a career crossroads, but not a desperate one. Despite dropping his last two fights in the UFC (albeit the last one against Travis Browne ending on controversial terms), Mitrione is not begging for work or desperate for attention. In fact, he has a lot of options. The only question is which path he'll take, not so much which path is better.
"I'm in a good spot, man," Mitrione said on Monday's The MMA Hour.
According to Mitrione, who fought out his UFC contract to seek free agency, he's received an offer from Bellator. While specifics were not detailed, Mitrione was quick to note the deal Bellator offered is quite alright by him.
"UFC has the right to match," he explained. "Definitely, I've got a very nice offer from Bellator. I'm very happy with that. I've been in talks with ONE [Championship]. I feel I am very happy with where things are with Bellator right now.
"As a matter of fact," he continued, "I actually sent in today the official offer sheet from Bellator into the UFC to see if they want to match."
Mitrone said he isn't sure if they'll match. "If they do, awesome. Great, then we can have a conversation," he noted. As it stands, he believes the UFC has roughly two weeks to respond to Bellator's offer, although he believes they'll likely act one way or the other within a week. While he waits, he said he's auditioned for a television color commentary job
For a 37-year-old fighter coming off of back-to-back losses, Mitrione knows he's an excellent position. Still, while he said explicitly he's pleased with the Bellator offer, there is work to be done in the UFC.
Mitrione lost to Browne in January, but only after a series of eye pokes went unpunished by the referee. Mitrione contended this not only affected his ability to fight, but according to the rules in Massachusetts where the fight took place, is grounds to have the result of the bout scratched or overturned.
That, Mitrione said, is one reason why staying in the UFC is appealing.
"I'd be happy with the offer from Bellator, but I feel that I have unfinished business in UFC," he said. "If the UFC matched, my first fight would be with Travis again. That's my money fight. I want that fight. I was beating him, I'm better than him, the world knows it, the world saw it, especially if they're calling fouls where he can't stop my forward aggression coming forwards. Travis is going to have a really bad night and he knows it, too. The world knows it.
"I swing leather," he noted. "If I touch your face, especially if you're reeling backwards, it's not going to work out well for you."
Mitrione has options, none of them bad. In fact, if his experience and that of Ben Henderson's say anything, it's that the free market works a lot better than many fighters realize.
"It's interesting because if you think about it, the free market is becoming legit," he explained. "Look at what Ben Henderson did, right? Got offered X and then got offered Y [raises his hand higher in the air]. And the X had a couple pie in the sky dreams, some pipe dream chases. But this one is legit, it's money in hand and it made sense, especially since they don't control anything that goes on. It's just, 'You're going to get paid this.'
"Well, that's pretty much what my conversation was [with UFC], too," he said. "They made an offer before and the pie in the sky was a beautiful number, but it's unrealistic. But that was on my original contract, which I turned down. Now we'll see what they do, but I think if other fighters come out and see a number that gets released. They'll be like, 'Well, if he got offered this and they offered that, why would I ever re-sign unless I only want to fight in the UFC?' If I'm looking for money, it's a conversation to be had, at least."
Mitrione doesn't know much about Bellator's heavyweight division. He conceded he hasn't "done any homework on them yet", but that he didn't "need to." For me, "I'm still around the UFC. I'm still their business until they say, 'No, we don't want to match it."
While his future is up in the air, his desire to compete is not. No matter which way he goes, he has an aim. If it's Bellator, it's to be the best he can be there. If he stays in the UFC, well, we know what's on his mind.
"And like I said, I'm still stuck on Travis. I want to fight Travis," Mitrione stressed. "I got a grievance and I have a vendetta."