Frank Mir: Last of a Dying Breed

May 21, 2012
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The date was November 22, 2001 and the event was UFC 34 in Las Vegas.

This marked just a few events into the new regime of ownership for the UFC under the leadership of the Fertitta brothers and one time MMA manager Dana White, as they looked to right the ship of a once thriving fight company that had fallen on harder times of late.

The main event that night was a heavyweight title rematch between future Hall of Famer Randy Couture and early UFC mainstay Pedro Rizzo.

There were two more heavyweight bouts also on the main card that night including future UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez against Pete Williams, as well as Josh Barnett who faced Bobby Hoffman.

What may be most notable about that card however was the first fight of the night that kicked off the entire card and that was the debut of a brash young submission specialist named Frank Mir.

He took on fellow Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Roberto Traven, and Mir impressed everybody that night with a quick armbar submission to win in his debut and start the journey on career that would last more than 10 years with the company.

Mir points to his age as a major factor in the reason behind why he’s been around the UFC so long.

“My first fight in the UFC I was like 22 years old,” Mir told MMAWeekly Radio. “There’s not a lot of heavyweights right now that are in the UFC that are 22 years of age. I think being 32, I’m more on the average side as far as age group for heavyweights, I just got into it so early.”

On Saturday night May 26, Mir will battle for the UFC heavyweight title against current champion Junior Dos Santos with a chance to add another championship belt to his resume, but what may be most impressive about this feat is the fact that the Las Vegas based heavyweight is even in this fight to begin with.

Now you might be thinking that is in reference to Mir’s tragic 2004 motorcycle accident that claimed more than a year of his career, and almost took away his ability to fight all together but you’d be wrong.

See, Frank Mir fighting for the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 146 is special for a multitude of reasons, but maybe none more than the fact that he is the last of the heavyweights from an earlier era where the big men ruled the Octagon, and he’s still at the top of the weight class today.

Longevity isn’t something that happens very often in MMA, and maybe even less in the heavyweight division.

When Mir started fighting for the UFC in 2001, Randy Couture was champion and as previously mentioned he defended his belt on the same card where Mir first started with the company.

From Couture the title bounced to Josh Barnett (who was stripped of the belt after testing positive for a banned substance following his championship win) then to Ricco Rodriguez who was then defeated by Tim Sylvia for the strap. Mir won the first of his UFC heavyweight titles by snapping Sylvia’s arm in 2004 before suffering the injuries in the motorcycle crash that nearly claimed his life and his career.

While the heavyweight division has always remained one of the most popular weight classes in all of MMA, it’s never been the most flush with talent so in many of the UFC cards between 2001 and 2004 you’d see many of the same names pop up numerous times.

Here are a list of heavyweights that competed in the UFC between Mir’s debut and his first championship run in 2004: Randy Couture, Pedro Rizzo, Josh Barnett, Bobby Hoffman, Ricco Rodriguez, Pete Williams, Jeff Monson, Andrei Arlovski, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Ian Freeman, Tim Sylvia, Wesley ‘Cabbage’ Correira, Gan McGee, Vladdy Matyushenko, Travis Wiuff, Alexandre Dantas, Tank Abbott, Sean Alvarez, Tra Telligman, Wes Sims, Vernon White, Kimo Leopoldo, Jonathan Wiezorek, Wade Shipp, Mike Kyle, and Ken Shamrock.

If there’s one glaring thing to notice about this list it’s the fact that not one of them outside of Frank Mir is still competing in the UFC’s heavyweight division currently.

Even when looking at the famous heavyweight division of Pride Fighting Championships during the same 3 year span only Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mark Hunt (Hunt technically debuted in Pride one day after Mir won his belt) remain as fighters actively competing in the UFC who performed on those shows between 2001-2004 when Mir debuted and won his first title.

Now of course there’s something to be said for the talent level of those days versus the talent level now, but the fact is Mir was able to change his game, improve on things he lacked back then and adapt. While this list focuses on the heavyweights, there are very few fighters from those years that are still in the UFC at any weight class so the ones that remain have to be looked at as something special.

Mir recognizes that he really is the last of a dying breed of heavyweight fighter that continues to perform at a high level more than 10 years after their debut.

“I was able to avoid getting burned out because of my ability to adapt and look at things, and keep me humble and look at film and go ‘oh, I need to improve this’ and I’ve always strived to improve,” said Mir.

“That’s why I don’t have the same coaches that I had 10 years ago. As coaches I’ve worked with and developed and I outgrew them, I went and searched and found where I could find better training at.”

The plan for Mir has worked pretty well considering how he’s always been hovering around the UFC heavyweight title for much of the last decade, something virtually no other fighter in any other weight class can claim.

Of course longevity doesn’t guarantee success, but it does show the type of talent and hard work that’s made Frank Mir one of the best heavyweights this sport has ever seen.

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  • dderizzo

    I hope Mir snaps his arm…For Dos Santos To say Mir is not a man is wrong. Get the Doctors and the surgery room Ready. You sho.uld have kept your mouth shut ( Dos Santos) Kick his A** Frank…..

  • fjc1113

    Great article. Mir has always been my favorite HW and one of my favorite fighters period. Im a JDS fan but I didn’t think it was cool for him and minitauro to talk about Mir the way they did. Minitauro lost to him twice and still has the nerve to say he doesn’t have technique was laughable. And I don’t think JDS will be performing at the same level of Mir ten years into his octagon career

  • Great article, with all do respect to big nog and JDS, they r kinda bein bit sour that mir beat big nog not once but twice I been a huge fan of mir since the mir lock arm bar and snapping that big goofy lookin sylvia arm, and big nog is a legend and JDS is one of best boxers in HW division but they need give mir his due and credit for all he has done, yea he s made mistakes like tryin to stand with carwin, and lettin lesnar stay on top of him too long the second fight but he beat u twice big nog once when u were “sick” and the other when u were ” 100%” if mir fights his game and doesn’t turn this into a slugfest with jds and goes to his bread and butter in submissions he will beat him but we all know mir chin ain’t great, so for the love of God mir don’t box with him, but JDS if he loses it will souly be on him for lookin past mir as if he weren’t a contender, and hold this grudge over mir cause he beat big nog, JDS to me is a bit more handicapped mir was suppose to fiight Cain a striker JDS is a striker but JDS was suppose to fight Overeem a striker mir is primarily a grappler so he better be ready for that with all that said let’s go mir do what u do and forget the belt take home a limb and secure ur spot in the elite where u should be

  • garyfredericks

    JDS is an awesome fighter. I like him a lot and he comes off as a good person on camera. I think the comments JDS made were more mentally reinforcing to himself and Minotauro’s comments were more as a teacher/coach helping this along. It is completely obvious Nog has not one nanometer to speak negatively about Mir’s technique with two 110% unarguable finishes against him.

    Mir is capable of pulling out the W…and I am pulling for Frank, but I feel strongly that JDS will be a bit too much for him on the feet for him to work a ground game. Who knows though because Mir has been rocked a few times only to pull off the miracle sub or KO. Either way, whomever wins out of JDS and Mir, the winner will be a fighter I like. I think this is more of a toss up than JDS against Overoids.

  • alhmiel

    Mir is a professional warrior who has paid his dues. MMA is better for having a guy like Mir. Just think how low a scrub like Nick Diaz looks compared to MIr.

    • RonnieV

      Jesus! Alhmiel, have you ever posted and not mentioned Diaz. You are obsessed Dude! keep talking smack and that “Demon” Diaz will eat your children. lol

  • AdamBianski

    Before all the talking I wanted JDS to win. Now I want Frank to snap Junior’s arm so bad. Probably won’t, but it will be a very hostil crowd cheering for the golden boy. GO FRANK GO.

  • TandmWarElephant

    Man this is a fight between my absolute two favorite heavyweights! I really don’t see why everyone is (and has always) counting MIr out? He is an amazing fighter, if he could get over his ego and come up with smarter game plan he wouldn’t have lost to darwin or brock! but thats in the past… I honestly think Mir could POSSIBLY win the stand up if he uses kicks to keep the distance! Don’t get me wrong I know Dos Santos’ skills standing but it is how MIr says, its just his boxing and he is amazing at it.. And who knows maybe Mir will actually be able to bully Dos Santos… Of course all of this I’m saying isn’t likely but its a possibility!
    I honestly don’t have a preference in this fight, my only hope is that It isn’t a quick fight like Dos Santos and Velasquez -____-

    • Lesnardo

      I’ll tell you why people are counting Frank Mir out.

      Recall Fedor vs Heath Herring. After Bas said, “don’t count Heath out,” Stephen said, “uh..I am not counting him out but I am not exactly counting him in…” Bas just stfu.

      (1)Getting KOed 5 times brutally
      (2) Getting destroyed by Carwin, whom JDS destroyed.
      (3) Would have lost to Cain, who lost to JDS.
      (4) JDS is the strongest fighter Mir has ever faced.

      Are those enough reasons to count Mir out?

      Actually, no one is counting Mir completely out. He has a BJJ practitioner’s chance..pulling a quick submittion from the bottom.

      Other than that, he has zero chance of winning.

      That is why people are not exactly counting him in.

      • RonnieV

        Do I think Mir will win? Hell no. Do I think Mir has a fighters chance. Hell yeah! It’s MMA man, one mistake by either fighter and it could be lights out. Who cares about how they did in the past against other fighters. They are the best of the best, Mir has proved people wrong a few times.

      • maddawgmar

        You are so racially bias to any fighter that is of Latino or South American decent, it is sickening. You think that nobody can win against them. Your arguments are all ridiculous. Let’s pick them apart, shall we.

        1). He has only been KO’d once, the others are TKO, and out of all of them the only brutal one was Carwin, maybe Lesnar.

        2). Irrelevant, styles are different, and A beats B and B beats C so A will get beat by C has been proved wrong hundreds of times in combat sports. Example, Frazier beat Ali, Ali beat Foreman, and Foreman destroyed Frazier. Styles make fights.

        3). Saying Mir would have lost to Cain, is like saying Bush would have been a great president if it weren’t for 9-11. We may never know, because they aren’t fighting that night.

        4). False, while JDS is strong, he isn’t as strong as Lesnar or Carwin.

        Know if Mir can get the fight to the ground the it’s over. If JDS rocks Mir and moves in stupidly the it’s over. And if Mir lands a good shot like he did against Kongo, then it’s over. Mir can win this fight. Will he? Probably not, but well find out this Saturday.