What started out as an exchanging of text messages and a phone call on Friday night ended up taking center stage in the MMA world on Monday afternoon. On Ariel Helwani's MMA Hour, where Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was an in-studio guest, TUF alum and UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione crashed the party as he issued a challenge to the former UFC light heavyweight champion.
The two fighters put on a lively back and forth where both promised to knock the other out in humiliating fashion. While it wasn't a matchup anyone had on their radar previously, following the heat thrown around on Helwani's show, the potential throw down has built a buzz in the MMA community.
Mitrione is already slated to face Phil De Fries at UFC 155, but he sees the Jackson fight as a "can't miss" showdown for the fans. Several hours after their dust-up, I sat down with Mitrione and he further explained his motivation for targeting Jackson.
"Let me say first this is no disrespect to Phil De Fries," Mitrione told Bleacher Report, "I think he's a tough challenge but right now I'm looking for something different. I was looking around and there aren't any sexy fights right now. There are none at heavyweight because everyone is booked up. The UFC gave me Phil in December and if that is the way it is going to be then that is how it is. But that doesn't stop me from trying to get something else a little sexier."
"I'm a stand-up guy who likes to get in there and bang it up. I know Rampage gets heavy in the off-season and since he's had a few injuries I knew he would be walking around heavy. He's a big body, I'm light right now and I figured let's do it up. I texted him. Then I called him and left a voice message. He then responded to my text and we were in a stream of conversation all night."
"This all started on Friday and we had a good dialogue going. The point is that I'm competitive. I'm a lifelong competitor. I'm an asshole and I love to work. The sexier a fight is for me, the more I want to do it."
"I felt a fight with Rampage would be the perfect motivator and I think the fans would love it. They know it will be a scrap and he knows I'm not going to try to hump him and get him pregnant. They know he'll bring the same to me."
"People think I'll get knocked out but there are people out there who think I'll knock him out. One of us is getting knocked out but the scrap is going to be dope. We both can sell a fight because we both mouthpieces on us."
These are interesting times for Mitrione, and a high profile bout with the likes of Jackson is exactly what he needs. The former NFL defensive lineman built a solid buzz coming off the reality show as he strung together five consecutive victories. That momentum was halted when he suffered the first setback of his career via unanimous decision to Cheick Kongo at UFC 137.
The loss had Mitrione eager to get back into the win column but his bout with Rob Broughton at UFC on Fox 4 was scrapped when Broughton withdrew due to personal reasons. The situation put Mitrione back on the sidelines until the bout with De Fries was offered. While getting back to work is certainly motivation for "Meathead," it doesn't register on the same charts as a potential bout with Rampage.
"You're dead if you can't get excited for something like this," Mitrione said. "A fight with a guy like Rampage has to get you going in every way, shape and form. As a fan I would love to see that fight. Plus I think it's a fight which is extremely winnable for me. I think I'll put him right out. I've never had anybody's power ever bother me so I say good luck to him."
"We are both stand up fighters who bring it. How can this fight not be exciting? He has a huge legacy and it has the potential to be the best fight at UFC 155 if it happens. I'm not trying to overshadow anyone else on the card but the lead up to this fight with Rampage will be epic."
"I'm trying to get a hold of Dana right now to make this happen. I texted him to let him know I want to fight Rampage at 235 pounds at UFC 155. I included in the message that Rampage was down and it was a fight I know fans would lose their minds over."
"I want this so bad. I know Rampage is on his way out anyways but knocking him out is going to be a great send off. If I don't knock him out, I know for damn sure he's not going to knock me out, and then you have the 'Fight of the Night'. There is absolutely no way this fight could suck. Like I told him today, once we start banging and he tastes my power he is going to turn into a wrestler. I can't wait to punch him in the face."