Oli Thompson may not have the same name recognition in the United States as Bellator 158 opponent, but that has done little to hinder his upset plans.
The former English strongman is slated to take on UFC veteran fighter Matt Mitrione in one of the Saturday’s featured bouts in London, and he’s ready for the moment.
Thompson, who has competed for KSW, BAMMA and the UFC, will be making his Bellator debut while in the midst of a five-fight winning streak. Mitrione will be the biggest-name he’ll have faced up to this point. The former NFL player is a unique heavyweight who moves gracefully on his feet and employs a tricky side-to-side style.
“He doesn’t fight in the same conventional style as everybody else,” Thompson told Sherdog.com in a recent interview. “He’s a southpaw but he likes to switch his stance a lot and he moves quite a bit. He’s got an awkward skill set. When you’ve got a guy who is very specific with what he does, there are pros and cons because you can train for those possibilities. With someone like him, it’s hard to replicate that in training and it can be a difficult matchup. But I think we’ve formulated a plan that will work.”
That gameplan is most likely not to try and out-strike the elusive Mitrione. “Meathead” has been submitted twice in his career and though he owns a win via tapout, he’s not exactly the second coming of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira off his back.
“If the fight goes to the mat, I’m very confident that I’ll have more business being there,” he said. “It’s one thing I want to do in any fight and when the time comes, I want to bring him there. But I have to do it without making it obvious when I’m doing it. But yes, I believe bringing the match to the ground will give me the best chance to win.”
Thompson is a former Strongman champion and with his immense strength, it’s a natural that he’d be able to bully around his foes while in close. It’s career that he said he fell into by accident because he needed to get out of his house and had a bad attitude as a lad. It blossomed into him being a champion but after an injury derailed his future, he chose a different path.
“I had a surgery on my arm and I wasn’t doing things as well as I wanted,” he reflected. “When I was on my flight home from West Virginia, I decided right then and there to retire. By the time I landed, I was convinced that I would be the next big thing in mixed martial arts. I took to this sport well and after some ups and downs, here we are.”
His experience as a Strongman champion likely won’t aid him on the feet against the fleet-footed Mitrione. But if Thompson can take the bout to the canvas, he’ll have the edge in technique and, of course, strength. He’s an underdog going in but with the hometown crowd on his side and nothing to lose, Thompson likes his chances.
“Well, I’m not planning on losing just because he’s been in the UFC. People forget that I was in the UFC, too, only he’s had more success than me. I have my hometown support and I want to eventually be the best. Beating a man like Mitrione is my next step.”