Matt Mitrione will make his Bellator MMA debut at Scottrade Center in St. Louis on June 24, the same night Quinton Jackson returns to the California-based promotion.
Jackson will headline Bellator 157 “Dynamite 2” against Satoshi Ishii in a 215-pound catch-weight bout, while Mitrione will square off against Carl Seumanutafa in a featured heavyweight contest. If all goes as planned, Mitrione believes a future showdown against “Rampage” could be big business -- provided the former UFC light heavyweight champ doesn’t return to 205 pounds.
“If Rampage really thinks that he wants to fight me and have the last fight of his career, I would happily try to punch a hole in his face,” Mitrione told Sherdog.com. “But I don’t know, for as far as I’m concerned, Rampage is a 205er. I don’t know what he wants to do and how he wants to do it, but if [he’s down, I’m down]. I’m just trying to get paid.”
The late Kimbo Slice was Bellator’s biggest attraction, as his bout with Ken Shamrock in June 2015 drew 2.1 million viewers to Spike TV during their headlining tilt, while his grudge match with Dhafir Harris this past February peaked at an audience of 2.5 million. Those are difficult figures to surpass, but Mitrione thinks it’s doable given the right matchup.
“I believe that a fight between Rampage and myself could break the Kimbo record of viewers, ratings,” he said. “I’m not afraid of lofty goals.”
Mitrione, Jackson and Slice all were part of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10, which was one of the reality show’s highest rated seasons in large part because of the presence of Slice, as well as the coaching rivalry between Jackson and Rashad Evans. Mitrione, who later defeated the YouTube brawler via second-round TKO at UFC 113, remembers the Florida native as someone who might have been unfairly labeled because of his image.
“Kimbo was a really good dude. I had a good relationship with him. Family man. He was a father. He got branded as a thug because [of his appearance], but he was a really good dude, man,” Mitrione said. “It’s sad that all this happened, that he got branded as a thug when he really wasn’t, but Kimbo the person was a good man, and I’m glad I could call him a friend.”
Mitrione will have plenty of opportunity to make an impact in the Bellator heavyweight division, especially with the promotion’s recent decision to strip Vitaly Minakov of the title due to inactivity. Whether its Seumanutafa, Jackson or someone else, “Meathead” doesn’t have much of a preference as long as the fights are fun.
“There’s all kinds of names in the heavyweight division that interest me,” he said. “To be honest with you, the game plan is simple: I want to fight somebody that doesn’t try to A. get me pregnant, or B. run away. It doesn’t matter who it is. I’m down for the cause.”