Friday, March 5, 2010 | 6:47 p.m.
When news broke Wednesday that the UFC had signed 41-year-old professional boxer James Toney to a multi-fight contract, it probably was inevitable that Kimbo Slice would be tagged as a potential opponent.
Both fighters are pure strikers, relatively new to the sport, with little interest in taking a fight to the ground. Both are committed to competing as heavyweights, even though many believe they would be more successful as 205-pounders.
There's just one problem. Slice (4-1) already has a fight to worry about — a previously signed agreement to face fellow TUF 11 contestant Matt Mitrione (1-0) May 8 at UFC 113.
So when Mitrione started receiving phone calls Thursday, asking him if he was worried about losing his main card bout, it's safe to say the former NFL player was caught a little off-guard.
"I have no clue what's going on; the last 15 hours have been pretty crazy," Mitrione said. "To be truly honest, I haven't heard a thing from the UFC, and it's frustrating me. It's my understanding that it took awhile to get his paperwork signed, but I'm sure it's signed.
"Then again, that doesn't mean (expletive). When I was in the NFL I signed a contract, they signed a contract, and they can cut you whenever they want. I know that from first-hand experience."
As of Friday morning, Mitrione said he still was expecting to face Slice in May, even though the bout does not appear on the UFC 113 fight card on the organization's Web site.
However, Mitrione did admit that the rumors and phone calls had him a little worried because, as he put it, "Where there's smoke, there's usually fire."
He also said he had received a somewhat generic response from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva when he tried to find out if the original fight between he and Slice was still on.
"I texted Joe Silva (Thursday) night and asked what was happening, if there was any danger of this being cancelled," Mitrione said. "His response was basically that nothing was official and that I should keep preparing — that I'm still fighting in Montreal."
Although Mitrione said he would accept a change in opponent if that were what the UFC decides, the 31-year-old fighter also would hate to lose the opportunity to fight such a well-known opponent under that type of spotlight.
Mitrione is well aware of the negative perception fans may have of him, after he was clearly portrayed as the heel on the most recent season of the UFC reality television series.
Comfortable in saying he's probably one of the, "Top five villains ever on the show," Mitrione's antics in the house included leaking his team's strategy to its opponents, complaining of a "swollen brain" after his first-round fight and admitting that he competes in MMA because it's the only way to silence voices he hears in his head.
Mitrione laughs when reminded of those moments now, chalking them up to his boredom towards the end of the show and select editing by Spike TV.
"They show what happened, but it was a very slanted view," Mitrione said. "Like that part about me hearing voices — they took the setup of a joke and then didn't use the punch line.
"They want you to give exciting answers. So they sit you down and ask you, 'Why do you fight?' And you say, 'Dude, I've been fighting for six months. I fight because it's new and exciting.' Then they give you this look like, 'C'mon. Really?' So you say, 'OK. I fight because I hear voices and it's the only time I can be peaceful in my mind.' That's totally nuts and insane. But they take out the part where you laugh after and you say, 'Man, I'm sorry. I totally made that up.'"
Mitrione remembers being close to quitting towards the end of the show because he was so sick of living in the TUF house, a complaint fighters from previous seasons have made before him.
After defeating Scott Junk in the first round of the competition, Mitrione said he faked his head injury just to go to the hospital where they allowed him to call his wife and two sons.
Although he says he and Slice became friends on the show, Mitrione couldn't deny the fact the Internet sensation received special privileges on the show — laughing when asked if he agreed with complaints made by Roy Nelson that Slice's entourage was allowed at the UFC gym.
"Roy's a smart guy," said Mitrione with a laugh. "He's very observant. That's my answer. I think Roy is very observant."
Despite the fact Mitrione pretty much was miserable by the end of filming the show — sleeping in his closet so he could have privacy at night — he understands the positive effect it's had on his career.
For a fighter without a single professional contest before entering the reality show, a heavyweight bout against Slice on a televised pay-per-view card is a big step in exposure.
Mitrione is planning an eight-week camp under trainer Duke Roufus in Milwaukee to prepare for the fight and believes his standup offers a bad matchup for Slice.
He just hopes he'll still get the opportunity to find out.
"Fighting Kimbo is a phenomenal fight for me, and I think it's a bad fight for Kimbo," Mitrione said. "I'm still preparing for Kimbo, and I firmly feel I would knock him out. Once I turn his chin and put him to sleep, that would be a great amount of exposure and a great stepping stone for my career.
"If it doesn't happen, it's not up to me to get pissed about it. It's not like I'm five days out of the fight, I still have a full camp ahead of me. But I would like to know so I can sit back and re-evaluate how I'm preparing."