Former UFC heavyweight fighter Matt Mitrione is the latest fighter to move over to the Bellator organization, signing a six-figure, four-fight deal with the promotion.
Mitrione is the latest in a series of fighters who’ve opted to test their worth on the open market, and Bellator emerged as the most lucrative option for the 37 year-old.
“There comes a time in every athlete’s life, where the scenarios change and the landscape has eroded from what made you fall in love with it initially,” Mitrione said of his decision. “It has become that time for me. After a mutually beneficial free-agency period, I’ve decided to move my career to Bellator.
“I’ve enjoyed almost every second of my career and unlike most that switch organizations due to being cut or no longer being able to perform at the sports highest levels, I am bringing a body and skillset that are only getting better, and I cannot wait to test my abilities against the best Bellator has to offer.”
Mitrione originally joined the UFC via The Ultimate Fighter season 10 without a professional fight on his record, but he still managed to make it to the quarter finals and secure a deal with the promotion.
Mitrione would go on to fight 14 times for the UFC, compiling a 9-5 record along the way. In 2014 he compiled a three-fight winning streak, all coming by strikes in the first round, but back-to-back losses last year against Ben Rothwell and Travis Browne left him with less bargaining power at the end of his deal.
Still, solid heavyweight fighters are a relatively rare commodity, so he’s still somewhat of a loss for the UFC, and a definite gain for Bellator who could certainly use fresh talent in that weight class.
Mitrione is the latest in a number of respected former UFC fighters who’ve opted to continue their careers with Bellator instead, including the likes of Ben Henderson, Josh Thomson and Phil Davis.
Part of the motivation for this could well be down to the UFC’s sponsorship deal with Reebok which restricts fighters from seeking their own sponsors which was a lucrative source of income for many in the past.
In fact, Mitrione was one of the most outspoken fighters when the UFC’s deal with Reebok was first announced, and indeed Bellator made reference to the contrasting policies of the two promotions in their own statement to announce that they’d captured his signature.
“Prior to his last fight with his former promotion, Mitrione was forced to participate in a media session barefoot, as his shoes didn’t adhere to the strict company uniform policy,” Bellator noted in a statment. “He will have no such problems at Bellator, where he is free to secure his own sponsors and keep his feet warm with the footwear of his choosing.”