Matt Mitrione (photo: Maggie Krol/MMADieHards.com)
There is only one thing that can get Matt Mitrione to stop training: a party.
It’s not the kind of party you might expect. Before flying out to Las Vegas on Monday to prep for fight week, Mitrione planned on having one last hard day of training at home on Saturday. Sunday is not typically a day of rest for Mitrione, however, there was one reason to pull him out of the gym.
“I (took) Sunday off because that’s my son’s sixth birthday,” he said. ”Happy birthday Jacob!”
Mitrione (Twitter: @mattmitrione) is set to co-headline UFC 137 on Saturday against Cheick Kongo. Mitrione has had a long road mapping out his fight career before parking in the UFC, traveling through NFL and other football locker rooms, and The Ultimate Fighter house, to find his place within the organization.
Starting his pro career with five wins, Mitrione’s competition is about to jump a level when he meets Kongo at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
With Georges St-Pierre’s knee injury taking him out of the main event, Mitrione’s opportunity to be one step closer to headlining a card does not phase the focused fighter.
“Nope, I couldn’t really care less,” Mitrione admitted to Joe Rizzo and his former TUF 10 housemate, guest host Zak Jensen, on Rear Naked Choke Radio. “As long as I go out there and win, get paid, I don’t care if I’m the curtain-jerker or the main event, it doesn’t really make it a big deal.”
When it comes down to it, what matters most to Mitrione are the fans and the television placement of his match.
“Really more than anything else I get excited about being on the pay-per-view,” Mitrione said. “That means you’re getting more name recognition and a little more development as far as fan base. That’s the part I like the most.”
One of the perks of fighting Kongo is that the odds are the fight is going to stay on the feet and fists are going to be thrown. While four of Mitrione’s five wins have come by way of knockout, this is to be his first true test against a premier-level kickboxer.
In order to prepare for such a challenge, Mitrione paid close attention to his training regimen.
Originally, Mitrione was a professional football player, playing defensive line for the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings in the NFL. While performing in both the NFL and MMA require physical attributes and training, there are very few similarities between the two when it comes to the specifics of training involved.
“It’s totally different with the cardio, and getting in shape for the NFL is a completely different world,” said Mitrione. “But I think that I’ve done a fairly good job in getting into MMA shape versus football shape.”
Mitrione has an added benefit that his body responds well to training and because of this, he has learned that he does not require the typical six-to-eight week training camps that a lot of fighters take to prepare for fights.
Over-training used to be a problem for Mitrione. He discovered the flaw in his last bout against Christian Morecraft, for which Mitrione had a six-week camp.
“I was very over-trained and my body was beat up,” Mitrione said. “I was ready to fight about two weeks before the fight and I tried to prolong it and it didn’t do that much for me. So I figured that four-and-a-half, five weeks is my money time at camp and I’m ready to scrap then.
“I’ve had about five weeks for this one and I feel like I’m peaking at the right place as far as health and energy levels go.”
Mitrione was looking to soften up his training regimen in the waning days of camp. He had been standing up to the punishments of K-1 fighter Tyrone Sprong, Blackzillians coach Mike Van Arsdale and former UFC lightweight champion Rashad Evans in order to be ready on Saturday night.
Nothing like a kid party to ease the pain.