Frank Mir's two-fight winning streak has halted retirement talk. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
When Frank Mir discusses his upcoming bout with Andrei Arlovski at UFC 191, it seems as though the veteran heavyweight has formed something of a mutual admiration society with his fellow former champion.
While some of that likely stems from the two fighters time together as training partners, that respect also precedes their days at Jackson-Wink MMA. Mir recalls watching Arlovski as the Belarusian terrorized the heavyweight division approximately a decade ago.
“I remember when I watched him fight “Cabbage” Correia at [UFC 47],” Mir said during a conference call. “I was pretty impressed with how overwhelming he was -- his offense, his footwork, his combinations. I remember just being so impressed. It was one of those few times where I personally was a fan. I was like, ‘Wow this is a very beautiful thing to watch.’ So impressive, so explosive, so fast.”
Both Mir and Arlovski captured championships fairly early in their promotional tenures. Both also experienced their share of bumps in the road later on. Arlovski lost four straight -- three via KO or TKO -- during a rough stretch from January 2009 to February 2011. At the time, his chin was called into question, and many believed his time as a premiere heavyweight was over.
Since then, Arlovski has lost just once in 11 fights, but he didn’t truly become a feel-good story until his last two outings: a revenge knockout of Antonio Silva in Brazil and a stoppage of Travis Browne at UFC 187 that ranks as one of 2015’s most memorable slugfests. Suddenly, “The Pit Bull” had forcefully inserted himself into the title discussion once again.
Mir can relate.
The Las Vegas resident endured a brutal stretch from 2012 to 2014, when he lost four straight fights in the Octagon. To be fair, all were against top heavyweight contenders, but Mir was not nearly competitive as he had been in the past. With retirement talks swirling, Mir authored his own comeback this year with back-to-back first-round knockouts of Silva and Todd Duffee.
How have Arlovski and Mir managed to remain relevant? According to Mir, it’s a matter of working through the tough times.
“I think pretty much Andrei and I represent the same thing. I think there’s no losers between us on Sept. 5. We’re both guys that were champions, that we at the top of the sport -- we worked our way up there,” Mir said. “We both had it where people counted us out. I read articles where they thought Andrei no longer had it, and I read the same articles that said I should retire and I should call it a night.
“Here we’re back in the mix of things. Andrei is knocking on the door of a title fight. I’m back in the Top 10. Retirement talks have definitely been silenced finally now. I think both of us represent that as long as you’re diligent and you train hard and you have heart behind what you’re doing, success will come regardless of what those around you are saying.”
Part of the reason Mir believes he is experiencing this late-career resurgence is that he has refused to rest on his laurels. Mir vs. Arlovski could be about legacy, but for heavyweight submission ace, it’s more about staying diligent and focused, both in the gym and on fight night. It’s why he quickly dismisses any notion that his showdown with Arlovski could determine the promotion’s top all-time heavyweight.
“I think my wife and kids try to listen to [legacy talk] more than I do,” he said. “I think most guys at our level are extremely critical of ourselves, so that’s why it’s hard to see myself in that light. That’s probably one of the reasons I’m still so diligent about being in the gym and training and pushing myself. I really don’t think I’ve accomplished near enough of what I’ve wanted.”
Even in the toughest of times, Mir never stopped showing up, and he feels that Arlovski reached his current heights by following a similar path. While one man almost certainly will lose at UFC 191, it isn’t likely to trigger a change in philosophy.
“I keep showing up every day. Andrei never called it quits; I’ve never called it quits,” Mir said. “No matter what adversity we ran up into, after losses we still show up the next day at the gym and look to make ourselves better fighters and better men. I think that’s why we’re able to still be here and pushing forward.”