Heavyweight Matt Mitrione (pictured) is leaving the UFC for Bellator MMA’s pastures.
Mitrione made the announcement on Monday’s edition of “The MMA Hour.”
“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,” said Mitrione. “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 was hoping to cash in on his impending free agency status by taking January’s shootout with Travis Browne without a UFC contract extension as a safety net. The gamble didn’t pay off, as Mitrione dropped a highly controversial TKO loss to Browne.
Browne landed several accidental eye pokes during their tango, which caused Mitrione to lose some vision. While Mitrione admitted to referee Gary Forman that he couldn’t see, he wanted to and was allowed to continue fighting. Then THIS happened and the contest was stopped.
Mitrione was granted a hearing by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission, the sanctioning body who oversaw UFC Fight Night 81, to have the bout overturned to a no contest because Forman did not penalize Browne for the eye pokes that altered the course of the fight.
That hearing is scheduled for May 5.
Mitrione owns 9-5 professional record, all coming in the UFC. He emerged onto the MMA scene as a contestant on “The Ultimate Fighter 10” back in 2009.
The 37-year-old has lost two straight scraps, so while he’s a recognizable name, Bellator’s not acquiring a white hot free agent.
Mitrione was one of the loudest protesters when the UFC signed their exclusive endorsement deal with Reebok last July. He claimed that he was going to lose out on tens of thousands of dollars in sponsorship money because of the controversial uniform agreement.
One of Bellator’s biggest bargaining chips is that the Viacom-owned promotion allows its athletes to secure their own in-cage sponsors.
Mitrione did not disclose the financial terms of his Bellator contract.
No word on when Mitrione will make his Bellator debut.