Matt Mitrione knows in his heart that he's already the No. 1 ranked heavyweight in Bellator MMA.
With three wins in a row, including a knockout against legendary PRIDE champion Fedor Emelianenko in his last fight, Mitrione felt like he was poised to compete for a title in his next match-up, but instead he was entered as one of eight competitors in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.
For his first round match-up, Mitrione was pitted against fellow UFC veteran Roy Nelson, who he actually faced nearly six years ago in a fight that ended in a knockout loss. Mitrione hasn't harbored any feeling of ill will towards Nelson since that time, although he's happy to avenge a prior loss.
Still, Mitrione can't help but wonder the reasoning behind matching him up against Nelson in what he believes is a fight between the two best heavyweights on the Bellator roster.
Why No. 1 vs. No. 2 in Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix's First Round?
“I felt that it didn't make any sense,” Mitrione explained when speaking to MMAWeekly. “I felt like why would you put No. 1 versus No. 2 in the first round?
“I think Roy is arguably the No. 2 guy in the tournament. He's definitely the No. 2 guy in the division. I think that makes this really difficult. That makes this really challenging and I think it's extremely tough. The winner is going to come out of my side of the bracket for sure. Myself, Roy, [Ryan] Bader and [King] Mo, hell yeah that's a tough bracket. Initially I thought I was going to be on the other side of the bracket against “Rampage” [Jackson] and Chael [Sonnen]. It is what it is.”
There were plenty of questions surrounding the seedings in the tournament after the brackets were first announced. While Mitrione was matched up against Nelson, former UFC champion Frank Mir is set to face Emelianenko in the opening round, while Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader will meet fellow 205-pound contender Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal in another first round match-up.
Chael Sonnen, who has competed most of his career as a middleweight, already defeated former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in their opening round fight in January.
In other words, the four heavyweights were matched up against each other, while the four light heavyweight were paired together, guaranteeing at least two of them would make it into the next round.
Mitrione can't help but wonder what the logic was behind that reasoning, but ultimately he's happy to face whomever Bellator puts in front of him and for now that means a rematch with Nelson this weekend.
“I feel that this tournament is tough,” Mitrione said. “I feel that my draw is extremely tough, but once I get past Roy, which I do believe I will, then I have one hell of a scrap against either Bader or Mo, but I haven't put much thought into that at all.”
While the pairings in the tournament confused him, Mitrione can't help but get excited about the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix because this has been one of the most talked about events in all of mixed martial arts thus far in 2018.
“It's not really a heavyweight tournament. It's a super fight tournament.”
The added bonus is Mitrione already has his path laid out for him this year because if he gets past Nelson this weekend then he already knows what lies ahead of him for his next fight against either Bader or Lawal.
“It's the most exciting thing going on in our sport right now and being a part of that is pretty damn dope,” Mitrione said. “It's mildly frustrating that it's not a title shot, but it leads to a title shot, and I'd have to fight these guys anyways. It's not really a heavyweight tournament. It's a super fight tournament.
“By the time the second round's over, you're going to be able to answer if the speed and quickness of a light heavyweight is more relevant in a fight than the power of a heavyweight. I think that's pretty interesting.”