To say that Roy Nelson has faced Frank Mir before isn’t an out-and-out lie, but it’s not even close to the fight they have coming up at UFC 130.
Eight years ago at Grappler’s Quest, while Mir was a few fights into his UFC career, he ventured back to his roots entering a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition where he met Renzo Gracie black belt Roy Nelson.
At that time, Nelson hadn’t even done mixed martial arts yet, but with just grappling happening in the match-up, he got the best of Mir by points.
Now almost a decade later with the two heavyweights set to duke it out in the co-main event at UFC 130 in Las Vegas, everyone seems to want to talk about that grappling match, but Nelson isn’t really sure why.
“I hadn’t even done MMA yet. I wasn’t even thinking MMA yet. I was still just teaching jiu-jitsu and MMA fighters how to be MMA fighters,” Nelson recalled about the time period when he grappled Mir.
With both Nelson and Mir sitting near the top of the heavyweight division, this fight is more about the present and future, not the past. Both fighters hail from Las Vegas and have trained together in the past, but have taken vastly different directions to get where they are now.
Mir has been employed by the UFC since 2001, he’s been a multi-time heavyweight champion, and consistently ranked in the Top 10 over the years. Nelson has had to fight for his respect quite a bit more over the last few years.
He gets a few jokes thrown his way for his robust belly, but when he steps in the cage his talent can’t be denied. Still, Nelson had to work a much different path than Mir to earn his way into the UFC.
After winning the IFL heavyweight title and the organization eventually folding, Nelson decided to try his hand on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, where he won Season 10 and earned his shot in the UFC.
Now, coming back from his first loss since stepping foot in the Octagon, Nelson wasn’t so much concerned about facing Mir as much as he wanted to face the best heavyweight available. Much like when no one in the heavyweight division wanted to face Junior Dos Santos, Nelson isn’t afraid to step up to any challenge and he considers it an honor to face the former heavyweight champion this weekend.
“You’ve got Frank, he’s a two-time UFC champion, the longest employed Zuffa heavyweight. He’s a living legend of the heavyweight division for the UFC. For me to say I fought a living legend for the UFC, that’s something to say.”
Nelson sees this fight as a real challenge because he can’t really predict what Mir’s going to try to do when they step in the cage together.
“I’ve got to be the better striker, the better grappler, because at the end of the day Frank’s one of the most complete mixed martial artists,” said Nelson. “The only thing he probably lacks is the wrestling. Everything else he’s right there. It’s a fight that going to be a complete mixed martial arts fight.”
He doesn’t think this will be a fight between two grapplers who will just stand and trade with each other to avoid the ground. He also doesn’t think this will be a slugfest just because both guys have knockout power.
Nelson believes he and Mir are going to steal the show, whether the fight hits the ground, stays standing, or ends up going all over the cage.
After all, when UFC 130 is over, Nelson is pretty sure people will know who the real main event of the night was.
“I think it’s one of the fan favorites for the weekend,” Nelson said. “I like to say we’re saving the card.”