Matt Mitrione on Drug Screening and being 5 Days late “If you’re in the NFL, I think you’re gone”        Speaking of heavyweights, on the phone right now, joining us on the MMA Fight Corner is UFC heavyweight fighter Matt Mitrione. Matt, how you doing today buddy?

Matt Mitrione:  I’m living the dream, brother, living the dream. What you guys got cooking out there?        We’re talking heavyweights, Matt. Now, earlier in the show, we were discussing the future of the heavyweight division in the UFC with all this new talent that will be coming over from Strikeforce. Matt, is there any one particular fighter you’d like to face if he should make the move over from Strikeforce? Just to throw a few names out there, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett. Is there anyone out there coming over that intrigues you at all?

Matt Mitrione:  There’s all kinds of fighters coming over from Strikeforce. I’m really excited about it, man. I think it’s going to make so much more competition, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun, you know. I think that there’s, I think it’s so much — I think it’s a ton of competition. I think a lot of fights I’m really excited to see now, you know, and I think there’s a lot of matchups that can really throw a lot of hitches in the gitty-up for a lot of people. So, I think it’s a great call for the UFC, and I’m looking forward to getting in there and earning my keep.        But, is there any one fighter that you’ve noticed that you’d say, you know what, I’d like to fight that guy?

Matt Mitrione:  You know, not really, to be honest with you. I’m a fan of most of their fights. I’ve only seen a couple Strikeforce fights, to be honest with you, because up until now it really didn’t affect my job too much. But you know, now I’ll be doing my homework and trying to pay a lot more attention. So no, not really. Is there a fight that you think would be fun for me to have, from someone they’re bringing over?        I’d love to see you and the former baby-faced assassin — he looks kind of like the baby-fat assassin, actually — but you and Josh Barnett, man, I would love to see that fight.

Matt Mitrione:  Yeah, I mean, I like Josh. You know, we Tweet and text back and forth, and we always talk about doing some [unintelligible] together. So, I mean, I think it’d be fun. I think I’d learn a tremendous amount. I’ve never worked with him, but we’ve always kicked the ball around about doing some work together. So, I think it’d be fun. I respect him a lot. I think it’d be a lot of fun to get in there and kind of earn our keep together.       Matt, you know, they always say it’s not that your victories but your defeats that you learn the most from, and you’re coming off a close loss, a controversial loss at that, to Cheick Kongo. What did you take away? What did you learn the most out of that experience?

Matt Mitrione:  What I took away was, I had to develop a couple parts of my game that I just never really put enough attention to, you know, like dirty boxing, forcing somebody to fight that really didn’t want to engage, how to do it. Really, my offensive wrestling, as far as dropping down for doubles or singles or inside leg trips or anything like that, you know, offensive wrestling, I really never had to develop that much. And so, it really forced me to read just my stand-up game, and you know, get more comfortable with my takedown defense up against the wall. You know, I think if anybody’s seen any of my fights, I think they know it’s probably my Achilles heel, and you know, it’s something I just have to develop on. I’ve done a tremendous amount of mat wrestling, you know, and I thought I was good with takedown defense. You know, for this fight I was pretty prepared for it. I didn’t really want to go there, but I got put down, I got exposed. So, it’s something I’ve got to really develop on a little bit more and sharpen up on. But, I think that’s what I took away the most.        And you’ve got Ray Sefo in your camp, you know, helping sharpen up your striking, really getting you polished, you’ve got Neil Melanson helping with your catch game. Is there anyone over there at Couture’s or anyone else you want to bring in that can help you fill these voids and help you make these weaknesses your strengths?

Matt Mitrione:  Absolutely I do. I’ve really changed a lot of — I think everybody knows I’m kind of a journeyman as far as training with whoever I can. I’m on kind of the UFC circuit as far as like, you know, appearances and stuff like that. So, people are on the same circuit as I am, so you know, we do a lot of skills. Whenever we’re around together, we always make sure we get work in. So you know, I work with Bader and Munoz, but I’ve got a pretty damn good wrestling coach named Tom Erikson.        UFC vet, Big Cat, Pride, yeah, Big Cat.

Matt Mitrione:  Yeah, coach Big Cat, and I’ve got a guy named Ryan Root who’s pretty damn good at wrestling, and he’s really helped me out quite a bit. You know, I’ve got a handful of guys. I’ve got Jake O’Brien, who really is one of the best pure wrestlers in MMA, especially for a heavyweight. His shot is remarkably quick. So, it’s just something, you know, wrestling’s one of those things that you’re not going to learn in two and a half years. You have to take a little bit of time, you really have to get down to it, and really just grind into it, you know?        Yeah, absolutely, it’s that chain wrestling that’s hard to really get down to a science.        And Matt’s such an explosive fighter, and he’s very fast, very quick for a big man, kind of like Brock Lesnar, where he’s very fast. You don’t realize he’s that fast, and I think Matt has some of those same traits.

Matt Mitrione:  Well, I appreciate that. I try to use my athleticism, that’s for sure, but we’ll see how it turns out. It’s fun to be writing the chapters in the book, that’s for sure.        And speaking of your athleticism, you played NFL football. Now, coming from a background with the NFL and dealing with how they handle their performance-enhancing drug screening and whatnot, what are your thoughts on the Alistair Overeem missing, five days late, missing it, I didn’t know about the appointment? What are your thoughts on that? What would’ve happened if that was the same situation in the NFL?

Matt Mitrione:  Well, if you’re in the NFL, I think you’re gone, I think you’re suspended, no doubt about it. I think you have within, I think it’s 24 hours to return a phone call. They don’t care if you’re in Guadalajara boondocks, they don’t care, you know, you need to return a phone call. You know, it’s something you’d be gone in the NFL, I believe, but you know what, man, I mean really, he took a blood test, and a blood test is pretty legit, dude. So, if you’re going to pass a blood test, you’re going to be in pretty good shape. So, good for him, whatever he’s doing, whether he’s doing nothing at all or he’s doing it the right — you know, he’s doing it a way that he didn’t get detected, good for him, you know. And to be honest with you, as far as, like, it’s kind of a controversial approach, but as far as taking, like, you know, testosterone or antibiotics or PEDs, it’s strange. Sometimes I waver back and forth on this, where like, you know, some part of me is like, look, we’re paid to give the best show possible, and there’s a ratio of whatever, like a certain number you’re allowed to have of testosterone, because some people have super-high testosterone and some people have really low testosterone. So, if this guy’s allowed to have this much and this guy’s allowed to have this much, then why not just say okay, everybody can have this much here, this number, you know, as long as you go through a doctor and as long as it’s through natural or through testosterone versus other man-derived types of steroids, then you know, sometimes I’m cool with that. Like you know what, as long as we’re all on a level playing field, and it’s being done the exact same way, but if you take something outside of the parameters, or you go above your parameters, then they throw the damn book at you.

And other times I think, well, it’s cheating. You’re taking something that not everybody else has access to, and you’re increasing your winning edge. But, I don’t know. Sometimes some part of me doesn’t really care even if Alistair Overeem does it. You know, who the hell cares? You know, I mean, all more muscle mass is going to do is help you get more tired, especially in fighting.        We hear he eats horse meat. Matt, would you be down for eating any horse meat, or what?

Matt Mitrione:  Hey brother, if it gives me a physique like him…        No, dude, I’m with you, though, man. This is, you know, as a fan, I want to see the fighters at their best, their peak performance level. And I’m all about the monitored and watched and tested and checked as opposed to prohibition. Like you said, because some guys do have super low levels naturally, some guys have high levels naturally. Well, if we are talking about an even playing field across the board, then everyone should be able to test within that same level. And if it means that this guy doesn’t do anything because he’s naturally high, and this guy’s naturally low, he has to do something, that’s great, but I want to see these guys at their best, best physical specimens, being able to perform at the highest elite level, because as a fan, that’s where the best fights come from.

Matt Mitrione:  You know, another thing too is that, people want to see — assuming you’re an entertaining fighter, people want to see you fight. Well, we get our ass kicked in these fights, and we get injured. Like, I have to go in for surgery probably relatively soon. I’m going to the US to get checked out by a doctor, and I might be going to get cut on. And like, if I’m able to run, you know, like testosterone or growth hormones or whatever without really having to worry about, you know, really getting tested or failing drug tests as long as I do it within certain parameters, I’m going to heal faster. That means I’m going to be able to fight and put on a great performance faster, you know? Like hell, and good for Cheick Kongo. Cheick Kongo, he won that fight. He didn’t beat me, but he won that fight. Good for him, but you know, like, I had honestly no idea I had a hernia going into that fight. I thought I had a pulled muscle, you know, and either I made it worse in that fight or I just didn’t really know about it, but if I was able to supplement with whatever, maybe that hernia would’ve just been a strained muscle and it would’ve healed itself way before that fight, and it never would’ve been something. Did you guys notice I barely even kicked in that fight?        Yeah, it was surprising. 

Matt Mitrione:  You know, there was just something there. So maybe I would’ve gotten my ass kicked had I been totally healthy, and I would’ve been more engaged and I’d gotten knocked out when he was backing against the wall the whole time. I have no idea, but maybe I’d have been totally healthy, and a different  fight. No clue.        So, do you think most fighters, do you think they’re taking things like steroids or hormone replacement, all that stuff, do you think it’s done mostly for recovery or for that winning edge? Because if you actually look at statistics, you know, say you have 50 guys that’ve gotten popped for some sort of abuse, 25-30 of them lose. So, it’s not like it always actually has a winning effect. So, do you think it’s more for injury?

Matt Mitrione:  Honestly, dude, I have no type of speculation on how many people take it, how widely used it is, but I can tell you this much — if I’m going to use steroids as far as a fighter, it’s going to be for recovery, because testosterone will help boost your natural growth hormone production as well. But gaining muscle mass is only going to hinder your performance, you know. And especially like, the fact that if you’re going to be taking something, the fact that you have to get off of it however long in advance so you don’t get detected, you’re going to lose most of the gains that you make there. And most of the gains you make are going to be weight room gains versus functional strength gains. So it’s like really, I don’t know how incredibly beneficial it would be for you at all. So, I’d have to assume that it’s for recovery’s sake versus performance’s sake.        Now, I’m sure you get this list before every fight, or you know by heart now, there’s the list of banned substances out there. You ever look at that list and just think something is absolutely ridiculous and doesn’t need to be on there?

Matt Mitrione:  Well, sure. I think antihistamines are on there. Like, you can’t take Sudafed before a fight. There’s just certain things you can’t take, and it’s like come on, really? You take aspirin, you need to call Burt and be like, dude, can I please take a couple aspirin, I’ve got a headache from hell. Hey dude, good luck.        Have you ever found of why the list is as extensive as it is, and why it includes these crazy things like antihistamines?

Matt Mitrione:  I don’t know. I’ve never really asked, but I assume there’s good reason for it. But that’s another thing too, like then you’ve got to turn into the gestapo. And the cheaters are always going to be ahead of the cop, they’re always going to be ahead of the cop. So, it sucks. There’s always, like, this way and that way, and everybody’s always trying to find an example. Here, for example, as a matter of fact, before fights I drink beet juice. I drink a shit-ton of beet juice and intense high exercise, high intense central activity. So, I drink a shit-ton of beet juice. Is that a performance enhancer, or is that just — that’s regular food, you know. So, it’s like, if they tested for that, that’s another thing, another little hiccup in the mix. So it’s like, wow, that’s another little thing there that they can — what if they ban it? Now I can’t have beets on my salad anymore, because maybe that’s too many beets, or whatever.        What is it with the beets, though?  Yeah, why do you, what’s the positive of having that much beets in your diet, why do you like that so much?

Matt Mitrione:  It actually, there’s research that says it lowers the amount of oxygen needs to perform highly stressful, highly active environments. Like, if I’m going to go out and perform, and I drink X amount of beet juice per, you know, this many days out of a fight or performance, then I actually use less oxygen during that performance.        Matt, you mentioned that you may have to go under the knife for a hernia. When do you find out about this, and if so, how long is that going to keep you out?

Matt Mitrione:  You know, I don’t know. That’s a real good question. I’m going out to — I’m a lucky, lucky boy, man. I have the New York Giants as, it was my rookie year, my second year, and I had them kind of like as mentors. So, when I have something that goes on, I always call them up and I talk to their training staff and I say look, this is what I’ve got going on, this is the doctors they referred me to, how do you guys feel about it, is there another person I should go to? So, I’m supposed to go see a doctor named Doctor Myers in Philadelphia. I guess he’s one of the best sports hernia doctors in America. But the Giants were like hey, before you go see this guy, go see this guy in New York. He’s a hip specialist, and then he’ll tell you if a sports hernia surgery is the right one for you to get. So, I’m going to see the doctor on the 23rd. I’m actually leaving tomorrow to go to New York.        Now, if you don’t have to get the surgery, and Joe Silva were  to call your manager and say that they had a fight for you, what would be a really intriguing fight for you to take right now, if you were able to?

Matt Mitrione:  You know, man, like I told you, it’s public opinion. Whatever the boss says, hey, our finger’s on the pulse and this is what they want, you know, I’ll say absolutely. And really, I would’ve said before this, I get asked, the typical fighter answer, I’ll scrap with whoever, you know, as long as the fans want to see it, cool. But my answer now is, I want to fight with somebody who’s going to engage. I don’t care if it’s standing up and brawling in the center or grappling or something, just fight me, Jesus. You know, come in and either whoop my ass and get fight of the night, knockout of the night, submission of the night, or I get one of those three, you know, but I don’t ever want to have a fight like Cheick Kongo again. And that was my fault, I should’ve made it more exciting, but also he’s paid to compete as well, not just win. And I thought it was a boring fight — I don’t know if it was a controversial fight or not, it was definitely boring, and I don’t want to have fights like that. I want to be able to get in there and put on a show. And I’m proud of my performances, and that’s one I’d like to forget.        Well, I’m glad you said it and I didn’t, because I was going to ask you that. That had to be tough for you. I remember when you were on the Ultimate Fighter, and your first fight out against Big Baby Marcus Jones, you got booed, you were looked at as the villain. But over the last few years, people watching you fight, and you go in there, you have this carefree attitude, you’re smiling when you’re in the middle of the fight — listen, when that fight with Kongo was announced, I would’ve put thousands on the Vegas books that that was fight of the night. And when it didn’t turn out to be, you got a reaction from the crowd where they weren’t too thrilled with the fight. Did that feel like maybe you let them down a little bit more?

Matt Mitrione:  I absolutely feel like I let them down. Dude, the fight sucked. Call a spade a spade, the fight sucked. And I’m sure — you know, congratulations on Kongo for winning that fight, but I don’t ever — even if I win that fight, I’d have been embarrassed. I’d have been like, that sucks, and I stole 17 minutes out of those fans’ lives, and I stole my portion of the pay-per-view. You know, my portion of the pay-per-view money, I stole it, because that shit wasn’t fair. Everybody wanted to see a damn good fight, and it wasn’t. And I should have — I thought I pressed the issue, I thought I pressed the action, and he was only going to fight me in one phone booth sized area of the cage, and I wanted to fight anywhere else. Almost every time I bailed back out, I was like okay, let’s give them a show, let’s do something. You know, and I would actually say that sometimes, and it just would never happen. Granted, I should have sharpened up my skills, so I should’ve pressed that and forced that to happen, but like I said, it takes two to tango sometimes.        I was going to say, I guess we’re looking forward to your next fight, about pushing the fight and keeping the pace up.

Matt Mitrione:  I can promise you, a fight like that will not happen with me again.        Do you think that a lot of fighters show up fight night instead of to win, they’re just fighting to not lose?

Matt Mitrione:  You know, how can you argue that in certain situations? For example, let’s use my fight with Cheick Kongo, that Cheick Kongo, had he lost, would lose $70,000. So, he fights for $70,000 and $70,000. That’s a shit-ton of money.  He comes out with me who’s a known striker who’s got good hands, heavy hands, and you’re going to engage, there’s a good chance I’m going touch you and in one place you’re going to go right to sleep. So yeah, you’ve got to think about that. You can’t lose $70,000. And that’s like, after that fight was over — and I fought for $10,000 and $10,000, you know. So, I lost, so I got $10,000. I only lost $10,000. So, it’s not nearly as much of a kick to the nuts as losing $70,000 is. And by the way, the kick to the nuts is totally not pun intended for Cheick Kongo. So, I only lost $10,000.

But what it did is, it really showed me, when it comes to renegotiating with the UFC, if I’m ever fortunate enough to get to that point, I do not want to fight for a show and a win purse, I don’t. I don’t ever want to have to think, like, if I lose this fight I’m going to lose $70,000. No, dude, give me a flat rate, whatever it is, so that way I know I go out there and bust my ass no matter what, I’m still getting paid X amount. I don’t put on boring fights, I think I showed that already. I’m always going to want to engage and compete, and I fight because I love to compete. I don’t fight because I need the money, even though the money’s great. I fight because I love to compete, and I think they know that from me by now. So, I want to fight for a flat rate, so hey, you come in there, you put on this performance, you get this amount of money. Win or lose, as long as you put on a damn good show, go out there and bust your stones, that’s all I want.        Do you think that’s a fundamental flaw in their pay structure, because they don’t really do that flat rate thing. They do it once in a while for a last minute fill-in, but traditionally it’s show purse, win purse. And do you think that’s a flaw in their system that kind of promotes sometimes boring fights?

Matt Mitrione:  You know, it’s funny, because first of all, it’s my boss, so I don’t think it has any flaws in anything. But you know, I feel that that’s the carrot, that’s the beautiful carrot. And it depends how successful you are. Like okay, if you’re used to getting X amount of money because you’re used to winning, now you’re going to fight safer because you don’t want to lose that — i.e. Georges St-Pierre. But if you’re like me and you’re hungry, really, I just want to compete, man, I want to see how good I am in the world. I could suck, but I don’t know. So, I want to go out there and find out how good I am. So, I want to go out there and scrap, and really the show and the win isn’t incredibly, you know, it’s not really for the money. It’s more like the dish, but I would say that the money is nice, because I see it as the carrot versus — I see the carrot of winning versus the carrot of losing, you know what I mean?        Being that you are very vocal sometimes, you seem like a light-hearted, fun guy, even though you can be very serious in the cage. What is it that you like to do when you’re not fighting? What are some of the things that you like to do outside of the fight game?

Matt Mitrione:  You know, man, to be totally honest, I really love my kids. Anything I can do that I can be around my kids, play with them, take them to school.        Actually, Matt, I think we spoke to you one time, you were at the pediatrician’s office.

Matt Mitrione:  Yeah, that’s where I was, yeah. That was before I fought Kimbo.        That’s right. We spoke to you…

Matt Mitrione:  And the doctor walks in, I’m talking about punching the dude in his face. That was kind of awkward.        Well, Matt, listen, we want to thank you so much for joining us on the Fight Corner. We also look forward to seeing your next fight, whoever that is..

Matt Mitrione:  That was great, man. Thanks a lot, I really appreciate your time and interest.        Anything you want to plug?

Matt Mitrione:  Yeah, actually I do. Chris Lytle, myself, Jake O’Brien, Johnny Rees, Shamar Bailey, Sean McCorkle, we all started up our own gym. Finally in Indianapolis, we have a gym. For a long time, we were training in Chris Lytle’s firehouse, fire station.        Yeah, we were supposed to go there.

Matt Mitrione:  Yeah, there you go. So actually, we started up our own gym finally. It’s called the Integrated Fighting Academy. That’s the team that I came in under, that’s what Chris’ lineage is. So, we finally started one up and I’m really happy about it. So, grand opening’s on January 7th. Come by, we’re running coach Neil’s catch wrestling program  there. Dude, I’m incredibly excited, really excited.        Chris Lytle for senate.

Matt Mitrione:  Yeah, for state senate, absolutely. I’m rocking my Chris Lytle for State Senate shirt today. And I know you guys saw it, Dana wore it for the 140 weigh-ins.        Yes, yes.        What’s the website for the gym?

Matt Mitrione:  The website is, actually, it’s getting started, it’s IFA-Indy — or Indianapolis, I think —, and IFA for Integrated Fighting Academy, Indy, and it’s also on Facebook. It’s IFA-Indy on Twitter and Facebook.        Awesome, shout it out.        Awesome. We’re checking it out. Thank you so much for joining us, Matt.

Matt Mitrione:  Hey, thanks a lot for the interest.

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