Bellator 225 takes place at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., tomorrow night (Sat., Aug. 24, 2019), with Heavyweight competitors Matt Mitrione (13-6, 1 NC) and Sergei Kharitonov (28-6, 2 NC) stepping into the cage again after their initial encounter ended in 15 seconds with no winner.
No one could have been more frustrated with that outcome than Kharitonov, a fighter whose credentials extend all the way back to the Pride FC heyday. With career wins over Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Andrei Arlovski and most recently “Big Country” Roy Nelson, the lack of a finish was one of only two blemishes on his career. The man to blame for that result, though, is none other than his opponent this weekend. Mitrione was understandably excited to take on yet another Russian legend in the cage, but in his enthusiasm he over-excitedly threw a kick south of the equator that left “Paratrooper” unable to stand let alone continue the fight that night.
MMAmania.com recently chatted with Kharitonov (via e-mail) to talk about just how badly things went the last time he and Mitrione met in a Bellator cage.
“Very (badly). I suffered greatly (and) the consequences of this blow are still felt.”
If that’s the case you wouldn’t think he could be medically cleared for the rematch — yet here we are. I asked Kharitonov if he thinks Mitrione had any malicious intent.
“I can’t say (but) it seems to me that this question is better to ask Mitrione.”
Fair enough. So Mr. Kharitonov, do you believe a Muay Thai-style steel cup would have prevented the type of injury you suffered at Bellator 215?
“I think so. Now I’ve decided that I will only use the steel cup that is used in Muay Thai.”
Hopefully, this means the rematch won’t end in another “No Contest.” I asked Mr. Kharitonov if he could reflect on his long tenure and successful record in Pride FC.
“Yes, I remember those times with great pleasure, but I also look forward. All the same, Pride times, this is the best time in my fighting career. Probably also because then I was very young.”
I also asked Kharitonov if he felt his experience as a Sambo champion contributed to his eventual success in mixed martial arts (MMA).
“(It was) not only Sambo (that) influenced my fighting skills. I always fought in different disciplines and martial arts: kickboxing, boxing, combat Sambo, army hand-to-hand combat and others. All this tempered me and I still use the skills gained in various fighting disciplines.”
As someone with so much experience in so many martial arts, how much does Kharitonov think the disciplines that comprise MMA changed over the years?
“Our sport is developing very intensively, fights and preparations for them are now more professional (and) fighters are more prepared than before.”
This is undoubtedly true compared to the rough and tumble days of MMA’s origins as a professional sport. I asked Kharitonov what he would like next with a win over Mitrione.
“I would like to meet the champion of the organization, because I want to win the Bellator belt. I want a title fight with the organization’s champion.”
Kharitonov may be aiming for Ryan Bader (or possibly Cheick Kongo), but he feels like he can get there by sticking to what’s always worked for him best.
“I’m practically not doing anything new; I am preparing, as always, according to the already established system.”
The one answer Sergei Kharitonov gave me that was the most surprising was when he named the one person outside Bellator MMA he’d like to fight the most.
“I would like to fight with Jon Jones.”
Unfortunately, I was unable to ask if he would fight Jones at Heavyweight, though you’d have to imagine he would. In closing, I asked Kharitonov how felt about Scott Coker and Bellator.
“I am very pleased with my presence in Bellator, and I consider Scott Сoker one of the best promoters in the world of (the) MMA industry.”
Spasiba, Mr. Kharitonov. We look forward to your rematch fight on Saturday night.
Complete coverage of Bellator 225: “Mitrione vs. Kharitonov 2” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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