It was early 2009 and a former NFL lineman Matt Mitrione found himself hooked on MMA while looking for a new path to travel down in hopes of maintaining his status as a professional athlete. In his quest to find the right training he came across the services of UFC Hall of Fame fighter Randy Couture and the rest, as they say, was history.
Mitrione transitioned the lessons he learned at Xtreme Couture into a relatively successful run on TUF 10 despite only having six months of experience and zero professional fights. “Meathead” has since gone on to win his first five fights in the Octagon and now faces the biggest test of his career Saturday night at UFC 137 against French kickboxer Cheick Kongo.
When Mitrione locks horns with Kongo he will be a far more evolved fighter than was the case two years ago, yet were it not for the pummeling he suffered at the hands of Couture it’s likely he would be standing in a different pair of shoes than those he’s currently wearing as UFC heavyweight.
“I remember one day Randy beating the living sh*t out of me on the ground and yelling at me in the process. He was saying, ‘Look, kid, you’re supposed to have a lot of potential, and one day you might be something, but right now you’re on your back getting your ass kicked. Unless you figure out a way of changing that, you’re going nowhere,”” Mitrione recalled in a blog for SportsNet. “That whole experience really opened my eyes. From that day onwards I made it my mission to follow Randy’s advice and work on my catch-wrestling, which is something that puts the emphasis on staying off your back and actively working more advantageous positions. I have Randy to thank for that.”
Elaborting some more, Mitrione continued, “That beat-down he served up to me was one of the best things to happen to me in my career. I never really would have noticed the flaws and weaknesses in my ground game if it hadn’t been for Randy pointing them out to me that day. I would have continued along the same path I was heading down and probably been exposed at some point in the Octagon. Randy flagged the problems and coach Neil Melanson set about putting them right.”
“I’m now connecting the dots much better, thanks to the work of coach Neil and my catch-wrestling has opened my eyes to the potential of jiu-jitsu and submissions. It’s all the same end result, but you just use a totally different setup to get there,” the 33-year concluded before finishing with a message directed at Kongo.
“If I happen to take you down and have my way with you on the ground on Saturday, don’t blame me, blame Randy. Also, if I happen to shout sweet nothings in your ear in the process, again, blame ‘Captain America,’ not me. It’s all his doing…”
Kongo and Mitrione will face off as part of the main PPV card at UFC 137 starting at 9:00 PM EST with preliminary pairings being show through Spike/Facebook in the hours preceding the event.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC