For a man who makes a living beating up other men – and who played defensive tackle in the NFL – heavyweight contender Matt Mitrione is pretty friendly. In fact his opponent Saturday night at UFC 165 in Toronto is his good friend: fellow former pro football player Brendan Schaub.
Both competed in UFC’s Ultimate Fighter and quickly became buds. Now they face off, with the winner possibly getting a shot at the heavyweight title.
“Neither one of us wants to lose,” Mitrione said. “It’ll maybe come down to one of us getting caught in a choke and going to sleep rather than tapping. At the end we will both get a paycheck and we’ll still be friends, so it’s all good.”
Friendship is also what got Mitrione into the world of mixed-martial arts. After hanging up his cleats, Mitrione contacted a childhood friend – Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, who had just started MMA company Capital City Cage Wars in their home state of Illinois.
“At the end of the day I never fought for him,” Mitrione said. “I got injured and couldn’t fight. Then I was on Ultimate Fighter and the rest is history.”
Mitrione, who trains at the Blackzillians Gym in Boca Raton, grew up with Werth in Springfield, Ill. They took similar paths, and both are recognizable figures in their respective sports, but what Mitrione likes most is that they’re just regular guys.
“We never talk about our celebrity status or anything we do in our careers,” Mitrione says. “We just talk about our kids and family. Jayson is a family man, a grounded homegrown hillbilly dude who grows facial hair and lives the dream just like me. We both have a job where we can grow facial hair as long as we want, and we don’t have to sit in an office. Like I said, we are living the dream.”
Mitrione keeps in touch with a few former NFL teammates, including former University of Miami tight end Jeremy Shockey, former Gators quarterback Jesse Palmer and current TV host Michael Strahan. All were teammates with the New York Giants.
“I think we have similarities, and we still maintain a public persona,” Mitrione said. “It’s good for us to talk since we’re wrapped up with so much going on in our lives. We’re all proud of each other’s accomplishments.”
SILVA, WEIDMAN TO HOLD OPEN WORKOUT
UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman and former belt-holder Anderson Silva will hold an open workout 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 at the Klipsch Amphitheater in downtown Miami as part of a seven-city tour to promote their rematch that takes place Dec. 28 in Las Vegas.
Weidman and Silva will do work inside the cage, then will be available for autographs and pictures.
The Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park is located at 301 North Biscayne Blvd. The event is free and open to the public.