2011 and 2014 were good years for Matt Mitrione. Those are the only two periods in his UFC career where he competed three times inside a twelve-month bracket. Of those six fights, Mitrione won five of them, including two performance bonuses in 2014 alone.
If there is any key to Mitrione's success, it appears to be consistency.
As Mitrione prepares to make his Bellator debut on Friday at Bellator 157: Dynamite 2 against Carl Seumanutafa, the heavyweight told the media on Tuesday's conference call the heavyweight title isn't his priority. He's not against going after it, but it's not what he's thinking about. What he wants is consistency: to fight as often as one can, even if that means coming in on short notice.
"You know what the good thing is? It's actually not my business," Mitrione said of whether he'll deserve a title shot with a win on Friday. "I don't really care if it does or not. I go out there and fight who they tell me to fight. As long as the paychecks don't bounce, I'm here to do work. The powers that be can think about that, and after I put this ass whipping on Carl, then we can talk about it if that's what they want to talk about. If not, then I'll take whatever fight I can on short notice and get in there and stay busy."
This is the heart of the matter for the former Spike TV reality show contestant (The Ultimate Fighter, season 10), who returns to the network for the first time in years. A title shot isn't undesirable. He's certainly not trying to avoid it. It only matters insofar as it fits into his plan of activity.
"Honestly, it doesn't really matter that much," Mitrione said of getting a title shot. "It's not my place to make a decision or a statement on that. It depends on how handily I beat Carl and how I go about doing it. If I put on a good enough show, and the man feels that I'm in line or who should fight for the vacated title, then I'll scrap whoever they want. If not, just keep me busy, man. That's all I want to do. Stay busy. Stay active. There's plenty of heavyweights in the heavyweight division. Rampage wants to come to the heavyweight division. There's so many conversations to have afterwards assuming everything goes well, we can always figure it out.
"I don't care. I really don't," he continued. "I enjoy competing. I enjoy being active. I don't have an agenda on either side. To get the strap? Cool, awesome, sweet. Sounds like a lot of fun. Fight for the strap? Cool, sounds like a lot of fun. To have huge fights on big events and make money hand over fist? Awesome, sounds great. Just keep me busy. I don't care which one it is. I'll do both. Let me fight for the title and then retain against whoever in the world wants to fight. Awesome, cool, great. I'm on board. Just keep me active. That's all I want."
Mitrione enters Friday's contest on a two-fight losing streak, something he'll aim to bring to a halt in his Bellator debut. Perhaps more than that, though, is he's bringing what he believes is his trademark aggression, but more finely tuned to meet the challenges in front of him.
"I think I took a couple things away from it," he said of the loss to Travis Browne in January of this year. "I think mostly that you can't necessarily force a fight. You can't change the way you fight to appease others, your opponent or the referee or whatever else. You have to fight the way you do. It's the hurt game. It's the fight business. You don't just fight for fun. You fight for a career and a paycheck. Sometimes you have to be smart about what you do.
"I understand that's kind of ambiguous, but that's what I took away from it. I feel that it didn't modify anything in how I do. I'm still highly aggressive, I still come forward, I still throw heavy leather, but maybe some tactics and some ways I approach getting into certain positions or combinations have changed."
There's also the matter losing the appeal before Massachusetts' state commission in getting the results of the bout overturned, a process Mitrione calls "a sham". While he's ready to put the Browne fight behind him as a fighter, the general competitor in him, if not his ethical compass, compels him even now to force this issue until he gets a resolution which he views as fair. "It's a shame, but I'm sure there are some hungry contingency lawyer that wants to take it further and go after some money. I'm down for those conversations because I know my case is strong and I know my position is valid," he claimed.
Still, that's a semi-peripheral issue for Mitrione. His focus, he stated, was consistency. If he's going to make as much of this Bellator opportunity, then he has to act now and do so often. Frequency is a form of success. At 37, he knows his time is limited. The time, it's often said in MMA, is now.
"I need a carrot in front of me at all times. I don't do well sitting on the shelf," he explained. "The wheels are going to fall off sooner or later and I don't want to be sitting around when they do. If I can get in there, get active, get busy, then that's something I sure as hell want to do. Plus, I only get paid if I get work. If I need to work to get paid, then let's do it, man."