Matt Mitrione isn’t afraid of the brutal truth.
The former UFC heavyweight and current Bellator contender is preparing for a rematch against Sergei Kharitonov this Saturday night after their first fight ended in just 15 seconds due to an accidental groin shot.
The rematch will put Mitrione back into the cage with the veteran Russian heavyweight and he hopes a victory will secure him a shot at the Bellator title.
“I don’t think there’s a conversation to be had where my name does not fall into the ‘he deserves a title shot next’ after this victory,” Mitrione said when speaking to MMA Fighting.
Mitrione came up short in his previous attempt to become champion after he fell to Ryan Bader in the second round of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament.
The fight was lopsided in Bader’s favor, primarily due to his wrestling pedigree after he took Mitrione down repeatedly over three rounds.
A week after Mitrione faces Kharitonov, Bader will put his title on the line against Cheick Kongo in the main event at Bellator 226 with the former NFL player turned fighter hoping to get the winner and he’s not shy about who he would prefer to fight and why he would rather face them.
“I think Bader wins but I’d rather fight Kongo because Kongo is an easier fight,” Mitrione said. “Kongo doesn’t shoot like Bader does. Kongo has good top pressure but he’s not the threat of wrestling like Bader and for me, wrestling is my Achilles’ heel.
“I’m not slighting Kongo. I don’t like the way Kongo fights but I think stylistically he’s a better matchup for me than Bader is.”
Mitrione is honest enough to know that Bader is a tougher matchup for him than Kongo, although he would obviously fight either one of them if the title is on the line.
The problem with the Bader rematch are the same issues that came up in the first fight, which Mitrione knows would be a huge obstacle to overcome.
“[Bader] has forgotten more about wrestling than I will ever, ever know,” Mitrione said. “He’s really good at what he does. If you think about it, Bader beat me with really, really good seventh grade wrestling. He did nothing fancy. He cupped my legs, tight waisted me, held me down and grabbed my wrists and I couldn’t get away from it.
“Realistically, that’s the best perspective on the fight and that’s how he beat me.”
Regardless of the opponent, Mitrione believes he’s in a good position to earn the title shot if he can get past Kharitonov on Saturday night.
The 41-year old veteran still believes deep down inside that he’s one of the best heavyweights in the sport and he’s always looking for an opportunity to prove it.
“I want to get that strap. I feel like I’m the best heavyweight Bellator has on their roster or apparently second to [Ryan] Bader,” Mitrione said. “Other than that, I feel like I’m the best one they’ve got.
“I feel like I put on the most exciting fights, especially at heavyweight and I feel like athletically and ability wise, I’m a very unique animal for Bellator.”
As far as his expectations about the rematch with Kharitonov this weekend, Mitrione can’t say for certain what he expects but he’s getting ready for everything.
“Kharitonov is funny. He’s kind of a Jekyll and Hyde guy but which ever one shows up, he can still be very, very durable,” Mitrione said. “He can be very aggressive and move forward and use his straight right aggressively and his rear uppercut is vicious. Obviously it knocked Roy [Nelson] out. Other times he can just sit back and use his jab or bide his time and try to ride the wave and try to out-endure somebody.
“He and Roy have very similar mentalities where they’ll take five or six bombs in order to land one. It will be like fighting for the first time when we see each other again.”