In the 21st century, MMA has cemented its status as one of the world’s fastest-growing sports. As such, increasing numbers of aspiring fighters from varying backgrounds have sought to break into the professional combat scene. Of those, a surprising amount have a history in the NFL, and few have enjoyed a more successful crossover career than Matt Mitrione. So, let’s look into his MMA record and consider whether career-changing experiments can work.
World-Class Names on his Record
In the early years of the Illinois-born competitor’s career, he lined-up for numerous NFL sides. After securing a scholarship with Perdue University, he was offered a contract by the New York Giants in 2002. However, he was later released in 2004 following a long-term foot injury before having short spells with both the Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings.
After being hampered with injuries and misfortune, Meathead turned his attention to MMA in 2005 and later made his professional debut against Marcus Jones in December 2009. The bout determined the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale, which Mitrione won by second-round stoppage. Although Cheick Kongo ended his five-fight win streak in 2011, the six-foot-three heavyweight didn’t shy away from adversity, using it to fuel his desire to improve.
To date, the former NFL athlete has some iconic names in MMA on his record. As per Sherdog, Mitrione has a first-round TKO victory over Gabriel Gonzaga, who ranks second regarding the most finishes in the UFC’s heavyweight division. However, the most famous triumphs of his career came with Bellator. At Bellator 180, the 42-year-old stopped Fedor Emelianenko – arguably the all-time best heavyweight in MMA – in the very first round. After that, he defeated Roy Nelson in their highly-anticipated rematch via a majority decision.
Bettering the Performances of Other Crossover Stars
Of those to have a history in the NFL, few MMA fighters have been more successful than Mitrione in the cage. During Meathead’s era, Brendan Schaub also switched from football to professional fighting. In 2006, Big Brown signed with the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad, although they released him before the campaign began. Like Mitrione, this saw him turn to MMA. To Schaub’s credit, he recorded a fourth-round submission win over Meathead at UFC 165, although that proved to be his last victory in the UFC.
Following Schaub’s retirement, several former NFL players still compete in the UFC, including Eryk Anders and Greg Hardy. Ya Boi, in particular, has made a name for himself in the promotion. As such, fans believe that he could compete for the company’s middleweight title somewhere down the line.
However, the 185-pound division is somewhat on hold because of Israel Adesanya’s move to light heavyweight to face Jan Blachowicz. As of February 18th, the Last Stylebender is currently the favorite for the bout at many of the best sports betting sites listed at Winners.net. At the reviewed operators, prospective bettors can use sign-up bonuses across various markets, including MMA-related opportunities.
Crossovers Can Work, but Successful Experiments are Rare
In terms of title-winning success, Mitrione fell short of reaching MMA’s pinnacle. However, to label him as a failure would be unfair. For someone who suffered a severe, long-term foot injury during his early years as a professional sportsman, to record 13 wins in MMA, including one over Emelianenko, is an incredible achievement.