SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- It's the dawn of a new era in Matt Mitrione's life.
The veteran heavyweight is Bellator's latest marquee free agent, and not only is the former UFC competitor getting paid, but he's branching out, adding Bellator kickboxing commentary to his plate.
But while Mitrione is eager to embrace the future, there's one item left from his past he's yet to let go: The protest of his controversial loss to Travis Browne in Boston on Jan. 17.
The bout, won by Browne via third-round TKO, changed on a pair of uncalled Browne eye pokes. Afterwards, Mitrione filed an official appeal of the result with Massachusetts State Athletic Commission, raising several concerns about the fight's referee, Gary Forman.
Mitrione was originally scheduled to have a hearing on the matter on April 7, but it has been rescheduled for May 5. And he's vowed to take his cause all the way to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Supreme Court if he must.
"There's so much attention on it," Mitrione said. [MSAC is] overseen by the state Supreme Court. If they decide not to overturn anything, if they just leave it the status quo, then I can take that to the Supreme Court, I can get that overturned, and any hungry lawyer is going to want to take that over there. They have to be accountable for what happened."
Mitrione's complaint cites several concerns with Forman, including the simple fact a referee with a dearth of big-time fights got assigned a network main-card bout in the first place.
"How is it excusable that a dude that has reffed nine fights in six years gets a heavyweight fight on a major card on network television because he's friends with the commission?" Mitrione asked. "There's a laundry list of stuff that didn't go right there, that should have been stopped."
Mitrione also remains unhappy that Browne was not penalized for a pair of flagrant eye pokes, which arguably led to the fight's vicious finish, which ended with Mitirone suffering a nasty hematoma above his right eye.
"How come he chose not to stop the fight when he witnessed the eyepoke, and he even told Travis 32 seconds later, ‘hey Travis, watch your fingers,' because I'm fighting with one eye closed?" Mitrione said.
Mitrione has also called Forman's professionalism into question, citing that he retweeted several articles written about Browne leading up to the fight, then directly tweeted Browne a few days after the fight, asking him how his leg was doing.
"Why was he tweeting before the fight?" Mitrione asked. "Why was he retweeting Travis' stuff? Why didn't he take points away? There are too many things there that are unacceptable that would never fly in the NFL or something else."
And ultimately, that's why Mitrione is seeing his appeal through. He feels if mixed martial arts is ever going to live up to its potential to become a major sport, there needs to be accountability for the sport's officials, a minimum level of professionalism.
"There needs to be a precedent set in the sport," he said. "There needs to be accountability for the professionalism and the experience for certain referees that are in charge of certain things. And there needs to be a chain of command that is accountable for that."
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