Matt Mitrione is jumping ship.
The popular heavyweight fighter is leaving the UFC for Bellator MMA after a period of free agency, he announced Monday on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. Mitrione is the latest in a number of well-known Bellator signings recently, including former UFC champion Benson Henderson and legend Wanderlei Silva.
Mitrione had an offer on the table from Bellator and the UFC chose not to match, he said. Mitrione called his free-agent period “lovely” and said he was excited about a new start with Bellator. He added that his Bellator contract is a four-fight deal and every fight is a guaranteed six-figure purse. Mitrione said he’s now “making double” what the UFC offered him as show and win money.
“I was really interested in the options that Bellator was offering and I was really interested in the conversation they were willing to have. I think that they’re making the rights moves,” Mitrione said. “I think sometimes you get into a spot where the things you fall in love about one organization don’t necessarily seem to be anymore and greener pastures seem to be somewhere else.”
Also part of Mitrione’s deal is a color commentary gig with Bellator Kickboxing. He’ll be debuting on the inaugural show April 16.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do all my life,” Mitrione said.
Mitrione (9-5) spent the entirety of his pro career in the UFC before now. The former NFL player debuted on The Ultimate Fighter 10 in 2009 and won his first five official fights in the promotion, including a victory over current Bellator star Kimbo Slice.
Mitrione has been publicly vocal about things like the UFC’s uniform deal with Reebok, but he said he has always spoken to UFC executives about his views as well. He didn’t think that played a part in them not extending an offer. Mitrione said the ability to put sponsors back on his fight gear played a “massive role” in his desire to go to Bellator.
“I have no axe to grind with the UFC at all,” Mitrione said. “I don’t think some of the things that happened, especially with like the sponsor were handled as well as they should have been. And I’ve always said my opinion directly to [UFC CEO] Lorenzo [Fertitta]. I told Lorenzo my thoughts on it, how to make it better. It just wasn’t the conversation that I was hoping it would go. But I don’t think that had a reason in them not offering me something else. I think they know that I have a value.”
The charismatic “Meathead” is coming off two straight losses, but is appealing a third-round TKO defeat against Travis Browne at UFC Fight Night: Dillashaw vs. Cruz in January due to multiple alleged referee mistakes. Before a submission loss to Ben Rothwell last June, Mitrione reeled off three straight wins to put himself in title contention.
The 37-year-old Blackzilians product will immediately be a big piece in Bellator’s heavyweight puzzle. The division has been stagnant in the organization for some time with champion Vitaly Minakov fighting exclusively in Russia since 2014.
Mitrione, who said he would be fighting “very, very soon,” didn’t waste any time talking trash as a newly minted member of the Bellator roster. He called out Bellator heavyweight Tony Johnson on Twitter.
They brought me in for exciting fights & ratings, u provide neither. You get other dudes pregnant. Get your game up https://t.co/BXUv5xR3Ku
— Matt Mitrione (@mattmitrione) March 14, 2016
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