The suddenly boisterous and camera friendly Frank Mir faces Cheick Kongo this Saturday at UFC 107: Penn vs. Sanchez. The two-time former UFC heavyweight champion has become considerably outspoken in recent months and this media session provided more of the same.
When he was asked recently about Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson by Fanhouse.com before last Saturday’s The Ultimate Fighter Finale, Mir was quite complimentary.
“I think Kimbo has a lot of abilities,” Mir admitted. “I think he is a very talented athlete. If he gets with the proper camp, I think he will do well. I was very impressed with his fight with Roy Nelson I thought that he actually caught him with a few shots. With a little more training he can easily be a threat to a lot of guys. He is a very powerful person. I have a lot of respect for him. I think that he is doing the right thing. The fact that he went out into the reality show and didn’t just ask to be put in the UFC and get a big contract, you know that took a big risk.”
Based on that assessment, Mir must have been pleased with Kimbo’s victory over Houston Alexander in The Ultimate Fighter Finale. Mir must have appreciated the marked improvement in the Floridian street fighter’s MMA skills now that he trains with Ricardo Liborio and American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt was less complimentary when he shared his thoughts on Roy “Big Country” Nelson, the eventual winner of The Ultimate Fighter 10.
“I think Roy has great wrestling, but structurally though, I know he hates when I tell him this. I think he needs to go down to light heavyweight. The whole big belly thing is cool I think he will struggle with some of the better heavyweights in the UFC. He would be much more a force to reckon with if he dropped down. It’s not like he is 265 and ripped. He would be a very good athlete at 205. He’d be a menace. He could still beat guys at heavyweight, but will he be an unstoppable force. Nah, he is giving up a lot of height. I can speak from experience, quality size matters.”
Given Nelson’s relatively easy win over Brendan Schaub in the finale, it may be difficult for Mir to convince Big Country to make that sixty pound weight cut and drop to light heavyweight. Additionally, Nelson may be hesitant to part with that “big belly” that serves him so well as a tactical tool to pin down his opponents while in side control.
Mir seemed annoyed when he addressed the claims of other fighters’ marathon training sessions.
“I hear guys say they train eight hours,” he said. “That’s bullsh*t. They don’t train eight hours… it’s not quality training. If I workout two hours in one work out, honestly it’s forty-five minutes of working out. You know what I mean. Let’s be realistic. You have your warm up, your cool down, your breaks, your talking… As far as your heart rate being at 170 and your throwing blows and going at it, that’s forty-five minutes. If you have two workouts a day, that’s an hour and a half. That’s a far cry from eight hours. There’s nobody who’s going four, five days in a row, eight hours a day. I know they can be in the gym. I’m in the gym all day long too. But I’m not training full blast… There’s no way I know of to keep the body from not breaking down…”
Clearly Mir did not see Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva’s workout regimen on UFC All Access in which the former PRIDE middleweight champion spends the greater part of his life in the gym snorkel training in anticipation of a bout with Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell at UFC 79: Nemesis.
Mir shared his thoughts on his bout with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008, particularly Minotauro’s claim that the loss was due to a pre-existing staph infection and knee injury.
“If Nogueira really feels that he got an unfair shake in our last fight, I would be more than happy to fight him again,” he stated. “I’m really having a hard time with a lot of the fighters. To really sit there and say well the whole night was dependent on that injury, then you are stupid. If you thought that you could have won with those injuries and now you are telling me the whole reason you lost was because of those injuries… So you’re dumb. That’s the way I look at it. I know what level my injuries are and there are times I pulled out of fights. And I‘ve had some pretty serous injuries and I am sitting there going ok, I can pull this off, I can’t pull this off. I’ve never really sat there and cried about the injuries afterward.”
It is tough to challenge the Las Vegas native about injuries and toughness, considering that he returned to the Octagon after a devastating motorcycle injury on September 17, 2004. Mir was side swiped or “t-boned” by a car going over 50 MPH. The collision catapulted Mir off his motorcycle a distance of over 30 yards, broke his femur in two places and tore all of the ligaments in his knee. It is a miracle he was able to walk again, no less regain the UFC heavyweight title.
When questioned about the state of the UFC heavyweight division, Mir spoke positively about the landscape of his weight class.
“I think it’s the best it’s ever been right now,” he noted. “Honestly. Before we’ve always had it towards one or two heavyweights and who are they going to fight. Also, the consolidation of PRIDE has helped us out immensely. Having Nogueira over here… Having [Mirko] Cro Cop for a little while showing what his abilities were you know obviously a couple years too late, it looks to be. Is it ever going to be as stacked as a 170 or 155 division? Absolutely not. It never will happen. Heavyweight boxing has never been that way. It’s just the way it is. Typically if you are over 200 pounds and you are a really good athlete, you’re not a fighter, you’re going to go play football. A lot of times you just get guys who have the mindset to be fighters, but are not typically good athletes and that is what the heavyweight division has always been. Even in boxing, usually you have a guy who didn’t make it as a basketball player, didn’t make it as a football player, well now he jumps into the gym, he’s 22 years old and he starts to learn how to box. That story has been told so many times over. Boxing is a lot more rooted than our sport is. I’d have to say it is not going to change. Human beings are only so big and there are only so many of us that are competitive. But if you get a guy who is 170, 155, they can be some of the best athletes in the world and they can’t make an NFL team, they’re too small. So a guy like Urijah Faber or a guy like Jose Aldo who’s a phenomenal athlete. They are not going to go play football, they’ll get crushed, too small. But now what can they compete in… Well, they can compete in combat sports. So that’s why if you watch collegiate wrestling, freestyle wrestling, greco roman, boxing, the best fighters in the world are in the middle to light classes.”
Mir’s candor is refreshing and reminiscent of that of his boss, UFC President Dana White. However, unlike the UFC top gun, Mir is not bullet proof and may suffer some backlash from those un-athletic heavyweights, particularly when he crosses paths with the aging Mirko Cro Cop.
A peace with his sincerity, Mir explained his new philosophy, “I feel there is no reason to hide statements. I think a lot of fighters are too scared. If something is true, it’s true. People are going to like you or hate you either way. If you don’t like me, then don’t have a beer with me, I don’t care. At least I went down the way I want to be.”
However, his appreciation for candor does have it limits. When asked about Brock Lesnar’s tirade following their bout at UFC 100, “I think he got carried away a little bit afterward. I think that anything I say, my kids can watch me say. Would Brock let his kids watch him act the way he acted after the fight? He might be a little bit embarrassed about it. I would be.”
Although it is debatable if anything would embarrass UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, it is a certainty that Frank Mir is a class act that will remain in the upper tier of the UFC heavyweight division for a long time to come. And he may just find himself back in title contention if he can get past Cheick Kongo at UFC 107 this Saturday.
UFC 107 takes place this Saturday December 12, 2009 from the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. The card is headlined by a UFC lightweight title bout between champion BJ Penn and top contender Diego Sanchez.