Exclusive: Bellator’s Mike Mucitelli Discusses Dan McGuane Controversy, Bullies, And ‘Attacking to Win’

Mucitelli (black trunks) most recently defeated Matt Van Buren at Bellator 73

On Sunday, we reported that Bellator had released light-heavyweight Dan McGuane from the promotion due to a previous manslaughter conviction. While we were quick to applaud Bellator for cutting ties with such an unpleasant individual, it was unfortunate that Dan’s opponent, “Crazy” Mike Mucitelli, was now without a fight. Mucitelli, 3-0 in professional competition, has a very fan-friendly style, finishing all of his professional bouts before the second round. It would be tragic if the New York prospect became a casualty of Dan McGuane’s unsavory reputation.

Fortunately, Bellator has booked a replacement fight: a 210 lb. catchweight fight between Mike Mucitelli and Matt Uhde, a 3-1 heavyweight from Kansas City. While on the road to Rhode Island for tomorrow’s weigh-ins, Mucitelli filled us in on the entire situation concerning Dan McGuane, as well as what fans can expect from his fight this Friday.

In a way, you know Mike’s background without ever hearing it: The youngest of four children in a lower-middle class family, Mike was drawn to sports at an early age, as all of his siblings were also athletes. Mike played basketball and baseball, but football was his favorite sport because of the physicality. His passion for football eventually led to a scholarship to play for Wagner College.

But Mike’s story is more interesting and complex than the typical “Ex-College Football Player Trying Out MMA” script. Check out our interview with Mike after the jump, and be sure to tune in to the Bellator 81 prelims at 6 PM ET this Friday.

CAGEPOTATO.COM: How soon did you find out about Dan McGuane’s previous conviction?

MIKE MUCITELLI: I found out about McGuane’s conviction as soon as I heard he was to be my opponent.  I like to do my research on my opponents and the first results that come up are about his history, not his MMA career.  So, I spent some time on the various stories and sources about that, but tried to focus on what the task at hand was, which was dealing with him as a fighter.

You told Mac’s New York MMA that his past motivated you to show the world how a martial artist fights a bully, but did you know the full story about Dan’s conviction, or just that he had been convicted for manslaughter?

I did tell the MMA blog that I was looking forward to showing the world the difference of a martial artist and a bully.  I knew the full story about his conviction, and frankly, the events turned my stomach.  Two on one, a smaller victim, kicking while down – it was just awful.  I don’t believe that there’s room in my sport for a representative such as him, so I was looking forward to showing the world that a martial artist who believes in the core values of martial arts – discipline, respect, honor, integrity, etc. – could succeed over a bully who has always relied on physical/mental intimidation.

Were you bullied growing up?

I wasn’t “bullied” necessarily growing up.  However, I believe that it’s a different world to grow up in and bullying has an entirely different meaning.  It wasn’t always easy, of course.  It never is.

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I transferred from public school to private school in seventh grade because of some problems my family had with the public school system.  When I transferred I left all the friends I had grown up with and spent all my life to that point with and moved to a school where everyone had more money, and had all been a tight clique since first grade.  It was difficult at the time trying to “fit in,” and I don’t know if I ever was “one of the in crowd” or a “cool” kid, but I don’t know if I could characterize it as “bullying”.

How did you find out that Dan had been removed from the card? And what were your first thoughts upon hearing you’d need a new opponent?

I had actually finished up an extremely intense training session all Saturday morning at Tai Kai, and I got home to relax and browsed through my Twitter feed to see Bellator’s official twitter: “Dan McGuane removed from Bellator 81 card due to previous incident.”

I was completely shocked at first.  I stared at it for a solid fifteen minutes trying to figure out what that meant.  Then I called my manager who promptly responded with “I’m on the phone with the Bellator matchmaker now, I just found out too.”  I ran the full gamut of emotion.  I was upset that I wouldn’t get to use the inspiration for training in the fight.  I was upset that the fighter I was training for wouldn’t be my opponent.  I was panicked that the hardest ten week fight camp I’ve ever put in was about to have no payoff.

I quickly regained my bearings, however, and realized I train to fight wherever the fight goes, not for a single opponent, and that a league of Bellator’s stature would have much less trouble finding an opponent than smaller circuits.

What got you into MMA? 

Getting into MMA is an interesting story (I hope!).  I went to Wagner College on a football scholarship, but a reoccurring knee injury took me out.  Since I wasn’t playing football anymore I couldn’t afford Wagner, so I transferred to SUNY Albany, and it was the same situation again.  I went from being a football star in a small college, to a nobody in the biggest college in NY.  I got too caught up in being social and trying to make friends and party.  I fell out of shape, and picked up a pretty bad drinking habit.  Finally, I realized I needed something to get off my ever-growing ass.

My friend at the time was really into Capoeira, and I tagged along (a little drunk) to a Capoeira class, and I loved it.  I spent two years studying Capoeira but I felt I needed something to really bring back that competitive edge again.  I had always been a fan of MMA (I even had the old UFC game for the first Xbox) and now that I was training martial arts, I was curious about it.

I searched the internet (not knowing MMA was illegal in NY) at the time for local events.  I came across a post on an internet forum for a “smoker” event for “charity” in the Catskills.  I called the number on the post and ended up talking to the event’s matchmaker.  I intended to call to get information about what was required to be a fighter, and maybe to attend to watch some live.  Somewhere along the lines signals must’ve gotten crossed because before the conversation ended I had signed on to fight a Sambo specialist in the back of a bar at a “resort” (see: camp).  I ended up winning by unanimous decision, and I was addicted to the rush from having my hand raised after a war.  I was lucky enough to find Tai Kai when I got home, and quickly learned that I knew absolutely nothing about the fight game, and have trained ever since.

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How does it feel only being three fights into your professional career and having an opportunity with a major promotion [Author’s Note: Two, actually.]?

I know that I’m very fortunate for the opportunities that I have received.  The chance to fight in Bellator is amazing to someone with such a short pro-record.  However, I don’t think that my record tells my entire story.  I have had four (sanctioned) MMA amateur fights (two for titles) and boxing and Muay Thai fights.  Also, I have had more training than many modern MMA fighters coming up.  I trained for three years before my first sanctioned amateur MMA bout.

Being from New York, every fight has been on the road, where I’m the underdog sent in there to lose and I’ve come out on top.  I do recognize that many fighters with ten times the fight experience I have would give everything they have in order to have the chances that I have gotten, and that is a great inspiration for me to make sure that I make the most out of every opportunity I have.

Mucitelli (red corner) made quick work out of Eddie Hardison at Matrix Fights 6

What can the fans expect from you on Friday night?

On Friday fans can expect action.  I know my opponent likes to come forward and push the action quickly and brawl.  I like to start fights quickly and keep the action going.  I don’t fight to grind out wins or just take a round.  I have finished all seven of my sanctioned bouts and I feel like that is part of my draw as a fighter.  I attack from every position, and I attack to win.

Is there anything else you want to say before the fight?

I am very thankful for the chances I have gotten so far, and I’m very honored to have the chance to represent my school, friends, and family in competition.  I moved out of my apartment and in with my sister, quit my full time desk job, and have given up any semblance of a social life to afford to train full time and dedicate my life fully to my craft.  I won’t stop fighting until I’ve made my mark on the worldwide MMA scene.

Make sure to tune in for Mike’s fight Friday night, and also be sure to follow him on Twitter.