INDIANAPOLIS—For just a second, think of the octagon as a square.
Don't see the two inside the cage as fighters, but rather as as statuesque kings and queens.
Mixed Martial Arts can seem to be a just a contest of just brute strength.
Matt Mitrione thinks differently. For him the the ring should be checkered in white and black squares.
"Everything from the striking to the ground game to the wrestling, to the positioning is all a chess match," said Mitrione, whose decided to participated in this figurative board game and has now is with the sport's premier leage-The Ultimate Fighting Championship.
"It's the biggest show in town for sure," said Mitrione of joining the UFC. "Its flattering, I feel like I'm a pretty good athlete, I feel like I'm pretty disciplined at what I do and to be in the same conversation maybe as an up-and-comer in the heavyweight division."
It came after stints with the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL following a successful career with as a defensive tackle for Purdue from 1998-2001.
Mitrione then worked selling employee benefit packages for companies in Wisconsin as a way to fund a new nutritional supplement company Eden.But the itch to return to competition quickly, however, got Mitrione looking around again for a new sporting venture.
"That's not exciting to me its not being alive, its existing. I couldn't handle it," said Mitrione of corporate America. "My wife knew I wasn't happy even though I was bringing home a good paycheck she knew it wasn't the same and I wouldn't be able to do that for the rest of my life."
So Mitrione and his family moved to Indiana, at first because Mitrione was drafted to play for Team Arkansas in the All American Football League. When that league failed to start up, he got another opportunity from Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth, who like Mitrone hails from Springfield, Illinois.
"He asked me to jump into his MMA Amatuer Show and he's a friend of mine and I told him sure," said Mitrone of getting into Mixed Martial Arts. " I knew that (MMA veterans) Jake O'Brien and Chris Lytle were both from Indianapolis so I looked them up on the internet, found their agents, agent gave me their contact information."
From there he found coaches who helped him to learn about what the new sport was all about, and began to discover a less publicized part of Mixed Martial Arts-the mental game. Its something that Mitrone found important since he grew up in a home in which his father was a psychologist and his mother holds a few masters degrees.
"Granted, its a brutal ending most of the time. But its the chess match to that ending, and that's what MMA is," said Mitrione. "You hear all the time 'Oh, I can do that, I could beat that guy'. Whoever that guys is, he would fold you into a pretzel, and there is no doubt about it.
"Because that guy, whoever that guys is, is trained at what he does."
Mitrione has gotten his own with O'Brien and Lytle along with training partners like Eddie Jones at Monteiro Brazilian Jiu-Jitzu on Indianapolis' south side. Recently he's been training heavily in Milwaukee with Roufusport Fight Club and Jeff "Duke" Roufous.
He got his big break when he was selected for Spike TV's "Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights" show that ran from September through December of 2009. Again, Mitrione turned to his mind for success.
"I had people up in arms, they had no clue what to do with me there, so I did whatever I wanted to do there," said Mitrione of his time on the show. "I would get in people's heads, whether they knew I was going to fight or the didn't know I was going to fight, if they though I was nuts or hearing voices or whatever."
It helped lead to success on the show-which culminated with a win over Marcus Jones in his first official fight with the UFC on the "Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweighs Finale" show on December 5th. The performance was enough for the management of UFC to put Mitrione on the card for UFC 113 in Montreal on May 8th, facing one of the biggest names in the sport Kimbo Slice.
"This fight that I've got with Kimbo represents the name recognition that I'll get once I put him to sleep. That's how it goes," said Mitrione of the upcoming match. "Kimbo, is he a great fighter? I don't know. I'll find out May 8th. Does he have a great reputation? Yeah, absolutely, phenomenal reputation.
"More people could probably pick out Kimbo than (UFC Heavyweight Champion) Brock Lesnar."
Sooner than later, according to training partner Jones, people will do the same with Mitrione.
"He started off as just a strong puncher and a brawler. Now he's transitioned into so much more, he thinks about everything he's doing," said Jones. "He's a very humble guy, quick learner and he's gonna be good for the sport and he's gonna be an ambassador for the sport."