(Schaub and Mitrione, likely watching that video of the Sumo wrestler getting ragdolled just off camera. Photo via Getty Images.)
By Elias Cepeda
Friends and fellow UFC heavyweights Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione will finally fight one another this Saturday at UFC 165. Both men were celebrated athletes long before they ever got into MMA and the UFC, with extensive football backgrounds in the AFL and NFL, respectively.
When you get two athletes who hail from similar backgrounds in the cage, there is often an added element of rivalry to the match up. Randy Couture facing Mike Van Arsdale, for example, or “Minotauro” Nogueira vs. Fabricio Werdum.
It doesn’t work that way with football, though, according to Schaub. “Not really,” he tells CagePotato.
“I think Matt is the more decorated football player and that I am more the decorated mixed martial artist. I pride myself on being a martial artist. I have a strong work ethic and was born to compete and fight. Martial arts is my true calling. Who the better football player is doesn’t really matter to me.”
Alright, the question was a silly one. But one still has to legitimately wonder what it will be like for Schaub and Mitrione to go all out against one another in the Octagon. They are not “friends” in the generic, early Tito Ortiz/Chuck Liddell sense. Schaub and Mitrione have been close and in constant contact with one another since they were both participants on the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter.
“Me and Matt are good buddies,” Brendan says.
“We talk once every week. We had the same trainer for years. We talk a ton. He was my closest friend in the [TUF] house. Before a fight we would talk game plans – what I think he should do to win, etc.”
All that made finding out he was fighting Mitrione a bit awkward for Schaub. “The way I found out we were going to fight was I got a call from Matt around midnight one night. I’m thinking, ‘what the hell is he calling so late for?’ I ignored the call. Then, the next day I look at my phone and I had about twelve missed calls from him. So, the first thing I do in the morning is to text Matt, ‘what the hell do you want?’ I thought he had drunk dialed me,” Schaub remembers.
“He wrote back, ‘we have to fight each other.’ I told him, ‘whoa, what do you mean? You’ve got to be kidding me.’ What can you do? You don’t say ‘no’ to Dana White and Joe Silva. Otherwise it can get real ugly.”
A fight between two close friends who feel forced by professional circumstances to face one another doesn’t seem like a sure-fire formula for fireworks. Brendan admits that, conceptually, fighting a friend can be a tough thing.
In the end, however, he’s certain that the fighter in him will come out against Mitrione at UFC 165, friend or not. “I think when you are outside the Octagon maybe there is a risk of not ripping his limb off if you get the chance,” he says.
“But when the juice is flowing in front of millions of people…I feel that in every fight my reputation on the line. Now he’s a guy messing with my reputation and my progress getting to the belt. I’m not going to let anyone do that.”