Photo by Al Bello/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images - Al Bello
UFC heavyweight, Matt Mitrione discusses life inside the Blackzilian camp, and the positive impact his manager, Glenn Robinson, has had on his life.
The Blackzilian camp has been progressing at a rapid pace, and shows no sign of slowing down. With Michael Johnson and Anthony Johnson's latest victories, they are gathering more steam to continue making their name known in the realm of supercamps. With nominations for Glenn Robinson and the Jaco Hybrid Training Center (Blackzilian gym headquarters), on the Florida MMA Awards ballot, the future has never looked brighter for them. In my most recent chapter of the Blackzilian Series, Matt Mitrione gives an exclusive, bird's eye view of the new kid on the block.
First caucasian Blackzilian
(Laughs) I think I might have been the first one. I was at a UFC event, I can't remember which one, but Glenn Robinson introduced me to Coach Henri (Hooft). I thought Henri was cool, but I didn't know too much about him, but I liked him. He was pretty straight forward and aggressive, and I like that. The next time I saw them, Tyrone Spong was there, and I knew who he was. I figured if Tyrone was down there, this was were I needed to be, because I needed the stand-up work. That's what really brought me down here, Tyrone and Coach Henri. I got down here and Rashad was already here and Mike Van Arsdale, which I didn't really know too much about Van Arsdale, but I figured I couldn't go wrong with a team like that. This was where I needed to be at to get better.
I got to know Glenn really well when I got down here, and I was very happy to sign with him. He reminds me of an NFL manager. A person has to pass a morals and ethics test. They have to have a very clean background with no hustles or complaints against their record, in order to represent athletes, and I felt like Glenn passed all that criteria, especially with my past experience with questionable management.
He's a legitimate manager. He's responsive. He's productive. He doesn't over-promise and under-deliver. He just tells you, 'Hey look, this is what I'm going to do', and he gets it done. He explains everything. I think that's the biggest thing that I respect about Glenn, it's his integrity. The dude doesn't say I'm going to get you X and then come down with Q. It's not even all about the money that he gets for us. It's the attention that he pays to his athletes.
He knew we needed a place to train, so he figured out a way to buy the Jaco Hybrid Training Center, and figured out a way to leverage a place for us without losing or using any of his own money. He's a very smart business man. There's fighters that come down to Ft. Lauderdale that stay for an extended period of time, but some fighters don't make that much money. The money comes in bunches. You get some, and then it may be four or six months before you see any more. He actually rented a fighter house, and lets the fighters that need it, stay there rent and utility free, so all they had to focus on was buying their own food and getting better. Nobody else does that. It's incredible. That's his level of commitment to you.
I respect him so much that I volunteer to do things in his office. I'm like, 'Hey, let me watch your cats for you' and things like that [laughs]. I'm 34 years old, and I'm tired, but I offer to do things because I'm grateful for what he does, and I feel like I owe him so much more because he's done so much for me. There might be managers that go to that level for their guys, but I'd be shocked to know that any more than one or two do it, and I personally don't know of any. He's just phenomenal.
Any given day, you have no idea what superstar is going to be training in our gym. We were in there one day, and it was a jiu jitsu day, and Cyborg Abreu, Pablo Popovich, some of Pablo's guys, some of Cyborg's guys, Braulio Estima, plus everybody that we normally train with, were all in there. Out of 26 people on the mat, 17 of them were blackbelts. Out of those blackbelts, seven of them were in the Top 10 or 15 in the world. For stand-up, on any given day you'll have Anthony Johnson, Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans, Tyrone Spong, Alistair Overeem, and you're gonna get to bust your ass with these high caliber guys every day.
You know that Monday mornings and Friday nights are absolutely going to suck, because it's Meat Day. You're going to come in there and scrap your ass off or get knocked out. You're going to get a couple lumps or you're going to give some to someone else. Meat Day is an emotional roller coaster. I don't know about anybody else, but for me, starting at about 4 pm on Sunday, I start thinking, 'Jesus, Monday morning is coming', and nobody else around you really has your life, because I don't hang out with a whole lot of fighters. Everybody else is thinking Sunday fun day, and having some beers with football, but I'm thinking, 'Well, I'm not going to go to a bar and stand around and waste my leg energy.' I want to sit at home to rest my legs, so I'm not exhausted and can try to kick back tomorrow. It consumes your thoughts, but then you get there and you're like, 'He he, I can't wait to scrap!' By the time you're done, if you didn't get knocked out or get something broken, you're in the best mood ever because you just survived.
Family and ego
Sometimes we rub each other the wrong way. It's a family. It's a bunch of brothers together, so of course you're going to have some testosterone in the air, or somebody is going to complain about getting beat up a little bit too much, or whatever, but it stays in house and it gets resolved before we leave the gym. In all seriousness, and totally legit, I'd say there's been maybe two, no, three blowups, and I've been here since March. One involved me, and the other two were different guys. It's never been the same person causing trouble. It could be someone having a bad morning, or somebody else having too good of a morning on somebody. A little temper flares, and then it's over.
We have what's called mat chat at the end of practice, so everything gets aired out. It's like if you were beefing today, you've got to squash that shit. We're all professionals, and it's never dragged on to another practice or anything like that. It's never about long standing animosity. It's just a quick flare up, and then it's diffused.
The reason I came down here was to get the stand-up work, and this is what I was looking for. I feel like my punches are better, my kicks are much more efficient, my timing is better, and my punches in bunches happen naturally now. I'm not a combination guy, and I'll never be one. A 2-3, low kick, step back, straight left, jab, high kick, blah blah blah, that won't happen. I'll never be that guy. When I throw stuff, Coach Henri understands how my body works and how I fight, and he lets me create whatever I want to create. From there, he makes me feed on it, and all of the sudden, those are my combinations.
With the grappling, I have never been folded up like a pretzel like I have here. Even when the superstars aren't here, there are still a ton of great grapplers. Flavius, Jorge Santiago, Thiago Silva, all great guys that keep me fine tuned. If I'm not getting tapped on a regular basis, it makes me wonder if they're taking it easy on me, or am I getting better [laughs]. Whenever I can catch one of these really good grapplers with a triangle or whatever, it tells me I'm doing something right, and I know I'm getting better. I have a shot now. I have a ground shot now. I never had one of those before. Until I came down here and started working with Coach Babak, and figured out what I was doing wrong, and made the necessary changes, I didn't think I had much of a wrestling chance. Now, I just rep and rep and rep, and I have a shot now.
I don't see anybody in the UFC submitting Roy. I don't see anybody in the UFC knocking Roy out, and I think everybody would agree with that. He has pretty good defensive wrestling. Carwin's got pretty heavy hands. Roy's got a gas tank, no matter how he looks. He may look like a stack of chewed up bubble gum, but he's got great cardio. That's one thing that I think a lot of people question about Shane.
Shane's also been out for a long time. In his fight against Junior dos Santos, it was right after his fight with Brock, and he fought very timidly, because he thought he might gas again, until he realized that he was fine. In the second and third rounds, he did a much better job against dos Santos than he did in round one, but he's been out again, and had a couple of surgeries, so maybe that'll be at the back of his mind.
If Roy can push the pace against him, I think he might have the upper hand. I don't think Shane can knock him out, and I don't think Shane can keep him on the ground to ground and pound him or submit him. I would probably say that I see Roy winning that fight by decision. I think he can submit just about anybody in the UFC, so that's also a possibility. He's got an incredibly clean ground game.
I love Roy. I know him pretty well, and I know that what he says is the Bible, according to Roy [laughs]. He believes everything he says. Because of that, if you think he's wrong, or disagree with what he's saying, it's still going to come through. His opinion is going to come through, no matter what. I think it takes a lot of patience to handle him at times, and I can see where Shane gets frustrated with him. To know Roy, and to have him be your friend, it's just one of those things you have to accept, because that's just how he is. I get along well with Roy, and hang out with him whenever I can.
You can follow Matt via his Twitter account, @MattMitrione