Frank Mir has nearly a decade of service with the UFC. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Frank Mir is constantly experimenting. He has tried all the diets, gone up and down in weight and gone too far in interviews, all in the last year alone. Rare is the veteran former UFC champion who still seems a work-in-progress, who has yet to settle into a predictable pattern.
Now 31, Mir has matured almost entirely under the bright lights of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, from his swift armbar finish over Roberto Traven in 2001 to his collar-tie knee knockout over Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in September. On Saturday, Mir will enter select company, as he marks a decade of consecutive fights in the Octagon at UFC 130 in Las Vegas.
“I wish I knew everything I know now 10 years ago,” Mir told Sherdog.com when asked if he had any career regrets. “I’ve made so many mistakes that were just stupid mistakes. The weight gain, going up and going down, I don’t consider that a stupid mistake because now I own the answer. I went and found out for myself; there are no questions in my mind. I gave it an honest effort and pushed through it, whereas other mistakes, as far as training and stuff, was done out of just ignorance or arrogance on my part and youth. That drives me nuts. I’m, like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even learn nothing intelligent out of that; that was just moronic.’ And so those things bug me.”
In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, Mir weighs his past, his present and his immediate future -- a fight against longtime friend Roy Nelson in the UFC 130 co-main event.
Sherdog.com: How would you characterize your history with Nelson and to what degree were you friends before you met him in a Grapplers Quest match in 2003?
Mir: We’ve always known of each other, acquaintances I guess, since 2000. He trained literally about 500 yards away from my gym. Our two gyms were almost in the same shopping center. At competitions we’d say hi to each other and always been on a friendly basis. We have a lot of mutual friends. Growing up in Vegas, we both traveled in the same circles, so that was a little bit of an issue. One of the people in my wedding is one of his cornermen. It was just, like, ‘Wow, this is kind of close; it’s kind of a backyard fight.’
Sherdog.com: What was the final calculation for you in taking the fight?
Mir: Just realizing that this is a competition and athletes compete against each other all the time. It is a little bit different in MMA. In a football game, tackling somebody is not quite as personal as hitting them with a punch, but, at the same time, we do it in practice all the time. I train with my father, so we try to hit each other on a regular basis. So I just kind of broke it down in those terms and realize that, hopefully, all of our mutual friends will just realize that the situation is what it is, and there should be no hard feelings. I think Roy and I kind of understood how it would be. I was more worried about the people around us.
Sherdog.com: The 2003 Grapplers Quest in which Nelson defeated you was a points-heavy match that turned on sweeps, reversals and positions. In an MMA fight, are you just as reluctant to give up, almost as a point of pride, point-scoring positions, even though they do not really count towards a result?
Mir: No, actually, and I think sometimes that’s a mistake that a lot of people make. And Roy also wouldn’t do that anymore, either. He’s a pretty intelligent person when it comes to realizing that, just because in a jiu-jitsu match I scored three points, just because I passed your guard, well, what ended up happening is actually not a bad position. A lot of jiu-jitsu guys try to pass because we’re taught it’s three points for doing so, but at the same time, a wrestler would call this a “turk.” I’m in top position and I have your leg trapped between my legs and you’re going to have a harder time rolling to your hands and knees to build any kind of a base because first you’ve got to unstick your leg. A lot of guys, myself included, used to make those mistakes, mistakes where I didn’t really visualize it from that point of view. You saw in the Brock [Lesnar] fight [at UFC 100] I was content to hold him in my half guard, which is kind of a silly mistake. It’s like, well, you realize you are on bottom and a guy’s punching you in the face, right? Just because he didn’t pass your half guard doesn’t mean anything. I’ve had to reestablish a lot of what counts and what doesn’t. A lot of bad habits can be created from jiu-jitsu competitions. I don’t feel that the guard is dead. I don’t feel that fighting off the bottom is a losing position, but there’s a reason why the old grappling sports have always rewarded a guy for throwing somebody and ending up on top and controlling them.
Sherdog.com: So there’s something to be said for the meatheads who think the guy on top is always winning?
Mir: There is a lot to it. On top, you have gravity on your side. There is an advantage to it. Some guys I think have gone and jumped the ship completely, and [said], ‘OK, basically don’t ever try to work your guard anymore. It’s losing; it’s futile. Dump it, and completely just roll to your hands and knees and scramble.’ Well, I don’t think that’s the answer, either. I just think it’s safe to identify that, yes, OK, being in my guard is not ideal, but there are weapons I have for here, and there is a threat I do pose. But at the same time, I don’t want to be easily put there and be held down there without any kind of attack back. In fact, one thing I wish they would change is the kicking to the head of a downed opponent. I completely understand it as far as when I’m on my back. If you threw a strike with your legs or your knees to my head, it could cause some damage to maybe my neck because now my body, through friction, is held to the ground and I’m not going to be able to move around as easy; whereas if I’m on my feet and you kick me in the head -- not that it’s the ideal situation, but I’m not held up against something -- my body is going to flow with the move. Obviously, we’ve seen people get knocked out, but people get up and there’s no injury to the neck. But with that same thought process put in, the guy who’s on top of me, if you stand up in my guard, I can kick you in the head. But if you put a knee down, now I can’t kick you in the head. I don’t understand that. I think that if you’re in my guard and you pull out and you try to rain down punches, I should be able to rain kicks straight up at you. I think we’re limiting the bottom guy. If you watch a lot of old MMA or jiu-jitsu stuff, that’s a very viable, dangerous weapon. I mean, even my wife, if we’re horse playing around and she’s on her back and she throws a kick up, it’s not a pleasant experience.
Sherdog.com: Your boxing has come a long way. Can you size up your striking compared to the rest of top UFC heavyweights, such as Junior dos Santos and Shane Carwin?
Mir: I think I’m one of the more technical strikers right now. Even the fight with Mirko and fighting with Cheick Kongo, I think I’ve fought some of the guys who are known as pure strikers and was able to land devastating shots. The only thing with Dos Santos’ boxing -- I really think it’s almost one-dimensional now. There were so many times in the fight with Roy [that] he did so many things I personally would not have done or I don’t think a lot of other mixed martial artists would have done. Here, he rocks [Nelson] with an uppercut and Roy backs up and falls to a knee. He’s up against the cage on all fours, and then Dos Santos -- he put his hand on the back of Roy’s head and almost was, like, “Well, OK, get up so I can punch you some more.” I think myself or Carwin or anybody else would have went in, like, ‘OK, now I have his back. There’s submission attempts. I can pin him down. There’s ground-and-pound; I can rain down strikes.” But I’m not going to, once I have someone’s back or I have you in superior position, just allow you to stand up so I can try to get more boxing in.
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