Mitrione: NFL lockout wields more MMA fans

LAS VEGAS – With the looming NFL lockout, there’s been a lot of speculation as to whether football fans might migrate a little toward MMA. So I asked former New York Giant and Minnesota Viking defensive tackle Matt Mitrione, who is spending time in Las Vegas in preparation for his upcoming heavyweight fight with Christian Morecraft on June 26 in Pittsburgh, if he saw it as an opportunity for crossover potential and, moreover, if he thought any of the players themselves might jump ship as he did and try their hand at the fight game.

“Yeah, I think that this will be good for MMA for sure,” he said. “As for the other thing, honestly man, it really depends a lot on the individual players themselves. The biggest part for NFL or football guys coming into MMA is whether they can handle getting their a-- beaten in the gym and in front of 7,000 people. If you can handle that, you got to be pretty good. Athletically, I think they’re in a different league than most MMA fighters right now. If you can handle that stuff ego-wise, you’ll be alright.”

Mitrione is 4-0 in his mixed martial arts career, and he chalks part of that up to possessing something most rational people (and even NFL players) don’t have -- that is, zero reservations about being punched in the face.

“I believe I am one of those guys,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s strong neck, and you get a strong neck playing football, or if it’s an ego thing like, ‘screw it, he got one off.’ I’m still figuring that out. It’s something I think about on a regular basis, though.”