With the way the injury plague has hit the Zuffa family, it's virtually impossible to keep a card intact from the time the fights are matched until event night. Replacement opponents are a necessity, but seem to be in short supply, of late. Whole cards from both the UFC and Strikeforce have been cancelled, and now another Strikeforce main event is in jeopardy. Frank Mir was forced to pull out of his November 3rd meeting with heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier more than two weeks ago, and a replacement has still not been named.
Dana White stated that the fight was offered to Matt Mitrione, but had been declined, and not much explanation was given. When a bout is offered to a fighter on short notice, several things need to be considered, most importantly, the level of competition should be factored in first. Cormier isn't just any guy. He's a former Olympian with outstanding wrestling skills and very good hand speed and knockout power. After the whole debacle with UFC 151, I've come to appreciate athletes that weigh the options and make choices that are best for their careers.
Mitrione has been remarkably silent over the last few days, so I reached out to him through his manager, Glenn Robinson of Authentic Sports Management. Over the course of a very brief e-mail interview, I got Matt's reasoning behind not taking the fight, and further explored his recent beef with Rampage Jackson. The interview, in it's entirety is as follows:
Stephie Daniels: In your own words, why did you turn down the fight with Daniel Cormier?
Matt Mitrione: First, I want to thank Dana White and Joe Silva for even offering that fight. It was an honor to get that call, and I would love to fight Daniel Cormier, but I'm just not ready right now. He has Olympic level wrestling, and although I have spent a great deal of time working on my wresting, I don't feel it would be my best fight back after such a long layoff. UFC worked hard to get me a fight this year, but my old opponent had visa issues and it caused additional time out of the cage. Wrestling is, by far, my weakest skill. I'm working hard on my wrestling, but it would be a huge weakness against me in a short notice fight against Cormier.
Stephie Daniels: Does the fact that this fight would have been in Strikeforce, which is noticeably deteriorating at a rapid rate, have anything to do with your choice to not fight Cormier?
Matt Mitrione: Not at all, if I thought I was ready for Cormier, I would fight him in Strikeforce or the UFC, or wherever.
Stephie Daniels: If Cormier had already been in the UFC, thus making this a higher profile fight, would you have been more inclined to take the fight?
Matt Mitrione: Whether this fight was in the UFC or Strikeforce makes no difference to me. I turned down Cormier the fighter, not the fight organization.
Stephie Daniels: Some fans have a knee-jerk reaction to want to blame the guy that turns down a short notice fight, regardless of the circumstances and reasoning. Does that bother you at all, and how do you address the negativity that can sometimes run off the rails in this sport?
Matt Mitrione: The way I look at it, a fan is a fan and I'll take the good and the bad that goes with having fans. It is a great honor to have fans care about me. The UFC wouldn't be where it is without the fans, and it's good that they are educated enough about the sport to make these complaints. The way I address the negativity is just to fight and win fights and constantly push myself.
Stephie Daniels: You have mentioned on a few occasions that you're interested in fighting Rampage Jackson, and I read somewhere that you even expressed interest in fighting Jon Jones. Are you serious in that contemplation, and does it mark a possible move down to 205?
Matt Mitrione: I'm going to stay at a heavyweight. I was willing to come down in weight a little to fight Rampage because it seemed like a fun and exciting fight to me. However, if Jones decided to move up to heavyweight I would fight him. That definitely seems like a fun and exciting fight to me. BUT, I wasn't going to light heavyweight. I wanted Rampage to come up to heavyweight and was willing to fight him at 235.
You can follow Matt via his Twitter account, @MattMitrione