Matt Mitrione claimed Monday that former longtime UFC matchmaker Joe Silva lied to him in order to accept a fight with Roy Nelson as a substitute in late 2014.
Silva, however, is having none of that talk.
Mitrione suffered a first-round TKO loss to the veteran Nelson at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale on December 2012 in Las Vegas. The heavyweight accepted the fight as a substitute after Shane Carwin dropped out, but claims that Silva lied to him about whether the bout would be held in the UFC’s big cage, which has dimensions of 30 feet by 30 feet, as opposed to the 25 x 25 cage used sometimes used in smaller venues.
Had he been told the fight was in a smaller cage, Mitrione said he wouldn’t have accepted the bout.
“Anyone who’s ever listen to me fight or my interviews, knows how much I despise that small cage, and Joe Silva lied to me and told me it’s the big cage so I would take the fight,” Mitrione, who rematches Nelson in the opening round of the Bellator heavyweight tournament, said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.
Silva, the former UFC chief matchmaker who retired last year after a distinguished career which dated back to the late 1990s, was forbidden from talking on the record to the media during his tenure. But now that he’s on his own time, he’s not about to let himself get called a liar unchallenged, so when reached by MMA Fighting on Monday, he said unequivocally that Mitrione’s allegation was false.
“I would not lie about such a thing,” Silva said. “There’s no reason to. I’ve never heard anyone use the excuse the cage was smaller as to why they lost.”
The former matchmaker does leave open the possibility there could have been a mixup in information. By 2014, the UFC had ramped up its schedule to near-weekly fight cards, which made for one logistical headache after another as things blurred together from one week to the next.
Silva points out there were cases where the company held cards on the same weekend in different countries and the wrong mat was shipped to the wrong venue.
“It’s not impossible they made a mistake shipping the wrong Octagon,” Silva said. “It’s not impossible they could have given me the wrong information. I don’t even remember this incident in the first place, there was so much going on. But in a situation like that I would get that information from the people who know and pass it on.”
Still, Mitrione has his mind made up on the matter.
“One hundred percent,” Mitrione responded, when asked by host Ariel Helwani whether he truly believed Silva lied. “Because they know I won’t take a fight in that small cage. That’s one of the reasons why, I tell them, ‘what cage is it in?’ [and they said] ‘we don’t know what it is yet.’ How can you tell me that’s something you don’t know what it is when I’m the most mobile heavyweight, and I’m looking at, I don’t want to fight in the small cage?”
SIlva said with so much going on, the last thing he was going to do was try to stack the game against a fighter who had just accepted a short-notice bout for him.
“To say I lied says I did it with intention,” Silva said. “Even if I knew the dimensions, with everything we had going on, with so many shows and so many fights to make and so many guys falling out, if I was this evil genius, why would I go out of my way to stick it to Matt Mitrione of all things?”
Mitrione, who had been training for a scheduled fight with Phil De Fries when he got the call to take the Nelson fight instead, said he didn’t want to detract from Nelson’s win their first time around.
“I was already in camp, I was already training, so three weeks, really, that’s not earlier,” Mitrione said. “That makes it sound sexier, like he took a fight on short notice blah blah blah, but that’s not really legit I don’t want to discredit Roy’s victory over me … With that being said, I also, I didn’t fight for 14 months, I had three surgeries during that time, this was my first go.”