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Matt Mitrione: ‘It’s nice to know the UFC cannot get out of its own way’

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Matt Mitrione doesn’t watch many UFC fights these days. But he does file some things away when he sees them on social media and in the news. When reports come out about the UFC not giving a fighter his or her show money when their opponent drops off a card at the last minute, they hit his radar.

“Just stuff like that, just little tiny things that are just another notch against,” Mitrione told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.

Mitrione departed the UFC as a free agent in 2016. He butted heads with the promotion about a number of things, most notably the UFC’s apparel deal with Reebok and the restrictions that came with it.

When asked about the difference between the UFC and his current home with Bellator, Mitrione mentions the “freedom” he is afforded now. And when the former Ultimate Fighter competitor sees things like fighters not getting show money, he can’t help but view it as the latest example of a UFC downward trend.

“I feel like they’re not in like a colossal nosedive, but I don’t think they’re in the right spot,” Mitrione said. “I think very casually, [Bellator president] Mr. [Scott] Coker does what he needs to do to bring fans or eyes over to Bellator. I think their production is completely different with Bellator. It’s a spectacle. He took a page from old Japanese MMA and made it bananas.”

Mitrione, 39, said he is making more money now — fight purses and sponsorships combined — than he ever did in the UFC. Even following TUF 10 when the sponsor market in the UFC was still hot, Mitrione said he is still making slightly more altogether with Bellator in 2018.

“It’s good business, man,” Mitrione said.

On Friday night, Mitrione will take on his TUF castmate and fellow UFC alum Roy Nelson in the main event of Bellator 194 at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. The bout is a first-round matchup in the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix tournament. The winner will face the victor of a May matchup between Muhammed Lawal and Ryan Bader.

Mitrione (12-5) has won three in a row since moving on to Bellator and is eyeing the Bellator heavyweight title. The Indiana native said he has a “finite” amount of months left on his contract and could hang up the gloves. But he is not 100 percent set on retiring once the deal is over.

“From that, we’ll see,” Mitrione said. “If my body feels good, if my kids want me to me to retire. If I have a career afterwards, which I do.”

Mitrione said he’ll see how the tournament goes. Currently, the former NFL player said he feels like he’s in some of the best shape he’s ever been in. However, he does have broadcast work, acting and reality television as legitimate career paths after MMA, he said.

“I don’t know,” Mitrione said. “I’m not really worried about it. I feel great, I feel healthy.”

The most important thing for him right now is being a better father, Mitrione said. He has two sons and one daughter and admits to not being around as much as he should have been in years past.

“My entire life path is to become a better father and to become better to the people that are involved in my life,” Mitrione said.

That’s one of the reasons why Mitrione says he is not tuning into MMA fights on Friday and Saturday nights when he’s home.

“My entire life is violence,” he said. “If I don’t ever leave work at work, then I never leave violence. And I can’t be that way, I can’t be aggressive, I can’t have that mindset when I’m a father. When I’m trying to rebuild bridges that I’ve either burnt from being gone or never had a chance to build because I was gone.

“We don’t have time to watch that. I’d rather scrap book with my daughter or build friendship bracelets. Stuff like that with my daughter.”