Matt Mitrione is — and soon enough, that will be “was” — that rare fight who has only ever fought for the UFC during his professional MMA career. He was a UFC guy, coming in on The Ultimate Fighter 10, and despite having little background in martial arts (he was a football guy), he managed to make a career out of it in the big show, winning more than he lost, and flirting with the top 15 of the division frequently. And while a 37 year old 9-5 fighter on a two-fight losing skid might not seem like a big deal for most divisions, for heavyweight, a guy like Mitrione is always an asset.

Why? Simply put, he’s a big guy who comes to fight, has a fan friendly style, and has enough of a personality to generate interest above and beyond a good chunk of the weight class. In the UFC, he could be seen as a low level gatekeeper, but the thing is, the division needs gatekeepers. It’s an aging division, with a champion pushing forty, and a large segment of the remaining heavyweights hovering around that age range as well.

In Bellator, however, Mitrione is something more. Which is why the promotion was willing to shell out $100,000 a fight for a rumored four fights for his services. The UFC? Clearly not willing to match that for a fighter who has just a few years left and won’t be seeing a title shot in their ranks… but the fact remains, even if they overpaid just little, signing Mitrione is a win for Bellator.

The reason is simple. It goes back to the limited number of heavyweights on the market, the even smaller number of talented heavyweights, and the smaller still number of talented heavyweights with name value. Whatever you may think of some of his previous blunders (his appearance on TUF 10, his comments on transgender fight Fallon Fox), Mitrione has name value, and has his share of fans. He comes with just over 75,000 twitter followers, for example – not a huge number, but given not all fans will follow someone on a given social media platform, big enough.

Additionally, Spike TV viewers will remember Mitrione from his Ultimate Fighter days, which is a win for both Bellator and the network. And he’s a game fighter who could be paired against anyone from Bobby Lashley to Cheick Kongo, to absentee champion Vitaly Minakov or even the legendary Fedor Emelienenko. Because lets be honest — Bellator’s ranks are thin.

And that brings us to our next point: in Bellator, the heavyweight division is still floundering. It’s a work in process at best, but at worst, what we’re seeing is one step forward, two steps back.

The two steps back in question at the moment? Lets call them Kimbo Slice and Ken Shamrock.

Not one, but both of these heavyweights failed their drug tests at Bellator 149. Shamrock lost to Royce Gracie (no saint in the PED department himself) that night, while Slice actually pulled out a win over Dada 5000. It would be a laughing matter — seriously, that was Slice on nandrolone (an anabolic steroid)? — were it not for the fact that Dada, real name Dhafir Harris, nearly died after the event, suffering from renal failure and a brief stoppage of his heart.

Bellator, which had been looking to be something of an old-timer’s destination/freakshow fight promoter, will now need to rethink how it approaches these sorts of contests, especially with the heavyweights. The division has always been the most consistent draw, and many of the names of old are still around the outskirts of the division (Dan Severn was supposed to fight Shamrock March 20, though the bout fell through), but the reality is, those names are quickly running out of time, and Bellator needs to avoid any further embarrassment, inside the cage or outside of it.

Signings like Mitrione are the way to go, one name at a time — lets hope they keep at it.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.