Matt Mitrione 'devastated' and 'embarrassed' after recent loss
NOV 22, 2013 1:00p ET
There's a famous saying attributed to President John F. Kennedy that goes "victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan."
The meaning behind the quote is to say that in winning, everyone celebrates and it's a joyous occasion while losing is a lonely, solitary feeling that leaves a person feeling empty and dejected.
If you've ever witnessed a UFC post-fight press conference, this quote literally comes alive as the winning fighters fill the dais, covered by wide-eyed smiles and pockets sometimes overflowing with bonus money, and their happiness exudes the thrill of victory. Inevitably, however, there are always at least one or two fighters brought up to the stage that weren't as fortunate in their endeavors to come away with a win.
You know the look -- brow furrowed, a brooding disposition on their faces and menacing voices that are only echoed by the loneliness felt during the agony of defeat. While he didn't make the main stage of the press conference after his most recent loss to Brendan Schaub, former Ultimate Fighter competitor Matt Mitrione displayed every, single one of those traits described for weeks following the bout.
Mitrione and Schaub had bantered back and forth in interviews and via social networking as the two former friends quickly became rivals, but that's not what fueled the depression that followed the loss. Devoid of any real levity after the fight was over, Mitrione sunk deeper and deeper into a wallowing pit of anger and frustration because he knew when it was over he didn't do everything necessary to come away the victor.
"After losing to Brendan, I was literally devastated," Mitrione told FOX Sports recently. "It has nothing to with the eye socket, it has nothing to do with the break. It has to do with the fact that I made a stupid mistake. I dropped my underhook to around his butt and I didnât keep my elbow tight. I just made a couple of stupid mistakes, and get caught in something and whether I get caught in it or not, I need to make sure I know the defenses to it.
"There's just something in my camp, a lot of us down in Florida with the Blackzilians a lot of us are very, very similar type of fighters. Like Anthony Johnson, myself, a guy named Guto Inocente, a hand full of guys are very similar where we all have really big balls and we come at you aggressively versus most of us don't look for takedowns, most of us like to stand up. Because of that I just didn't get enough grappling in. From now I'm going to make sure that I get my time in on grappling."
Losing is something every athlete deals with and it's not a new concept to Mitrione, who has been a competitor for most of his life. From the muddy fields during his college days playing football at Purdue to his stint as a player in the NFL, Mitrione understands the concept of defeat and he's never considered himself a "sore loser".
Mitrione's MMA career was literally birthed in the UFC so in many ways he's been learning as he goes, and there were always going to be road bumps along the path in his attempt to become one of the top fighters in the world. There was just something about this particular fight that stuck with Mitrione, like a stain that just wouldn't get washed away and he woke up every morning with the regret of all the things he could have done different.
"This fight really, really broke my heart. Broke it. Like I was completely dejected," Mitrione said. "I understand that Brendan beat me, but I feel like I'm better than Brendan. Most of the time people that lose say that, and I don't want to be that clichÃ© guy and it's ugly to be that guy, but I feel like I'm a better fighter than Brendan and I don't think that Brendan should have beaten me.
"It really upset me, especially losing in that way. Good for him. Brendan caught me in a submission that I legitimately did not know the escape to, and I can't get pissed getting caught in that. I can get pissed for the fact that it never should have gotten to the point where he got the choke in. I should have been more disciplined doing what I was supposed to do."
No matter what he did, Mitrione just couldn't shake the unsettling feelings of dread following the loss to Schaub. He tried to find comfort by talking to other friends from the UFC that had also suffered tough losses, but the pit in his stomach just wasn't going away no matter what he did.
"As soon as it was over I was so embarrassed and I was reaching out to some names in the UFC that I'm friends with that had some losses that they shouldn't have lost and I was like I'm really devastated, how did you guys handle it? What did you do? How do you mentally get over this? I was really upset," Mitrione said.
"I was so embarrassed after that I really didn't even want to work out again, I was really embarrassed. It took me a little while to get used to it."
Mitrione ended up having surgery to repair a fracture in his left eye that he suffered in the fight, and a few weeks later he picked up his bags, dusted off his ego and walked back into the gym, to try and find himself again. There was no pep talk or motivational speech awaiting Mitrione when he got there either. He was actually greeted with another reminder of the fight he just lost, but this time he faced his fear head on and tackled it with the kind of intensity and ferocity that got him in the game in the first place.
"So the first day I go back and I grapple, I'm at Purdue and I go to the grappling gym at Purdue and the instructor's son pulls me aside and he's like 'I'm sure you don't want to hear this yet, but I want to show you the defense to that D'Arce, it's really simple'," Mitrione revealed. "He showed it to me and it's literally one of the most simple defenses to any choke there is and I've actually been letting myself get caught D'Arce's getting up from the bottom and I've used it three or four times and it works like a charm. It's like why the hell didn't I know that? It made me kind of change my preparation, change my focus a little bit more."
While he's still waiting for medical clearance on his eye to allow him to go back into full sparring and training so he can book his next fight, Mitrione has already started to develop plans for how he will tailor his training camps going forward. He loves working with the Blackzilians team in Florida, but he also knows just like a chef needs the right ingredients to make a great dinner, he has to find the pieces that will fill the void of the puzzle he couldn't complete the last time out.
Mitrione hasn't sealed the deal on what he'll add to his camp next time, but he's already reached out to his old friend Neal Melanson, a grappling guru that trained Randy Couture for several fights, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu superstar Pablo Popovich to ensure the mistakes he made the last time won't ever happen again. He even called the UFC to ask for a fight against Stipe Miocic when he heard the Ohio native was in need of an opponent, although he was quickly rebuffed by the UFC because he was coming off a loss and needed time to heal.
The constant work and tireless training has put Mitrione's mind back to where it needs to be for him to return to the UFC feeling like a fighter ready to conquer the world. He's no longer consumed by the devastation he felt following the loss to Schaub, but that's not to say there's not a flickering ember of revenge that could easily be stoked to full flames if he's ever given the chance at redemption. The regret of the mistakes he made will always haunt him, but Mitrione is giving up the ghost and moving forward in his career.
It doesn't mean, however, that he will ever forget that fateful night in September.
"If there's anybody in the world I'd want to fight again, it would be Brendan," Mitrione said. "I like Brendan, he's a friend of mine, but the taste in my mouth from that I'm embarrassed. Remember how Rory MacDonald was talking about his loss to (Carlos) Condit, how it really embarrassed him and he wants it back? When he was saying it I was like cut it out. But right now, I really understand his perspective on that.
"I'm not going to let it consume me, but it really bothers me."