Former two-time UFC heavyweight titleholder Frank Mir may be on the path to another title run, but he has to get past Roy Nelson at UFC 130 before the road before him becomes clear.
With Shane Carwin and Junior Dos Santos headlining UFC 131 for a shot against current champion Cain Velasquez and Brock Lesnar on the shelf fighting his battle with diverticulitis, the line to the top of the UFC heavyweight division isn’t a long one. But Mir can’t afford to look past his May 28 showdown with “The Ultimate Fighter 10” winner.
“Roy’s a tough guy. I’m really just looking at that fight. I really haven’t given too much thought about what’s beyond it,” Mir stated on a recent media conference call. “In the past, I caught myself looking past people and I don’t want to do that to Roy. He’s a pretty tough guy, and I think that anybody that overlooks him ends up having a rough night.”
Mir and Nelson have history. The two competed in a grappling match at Grappler’s Quest in 2003 and Roy Nelson defeated Mir on points, but that was eight years ago.
“The match happened and it stands for something at that time that Roy was better than I am at jiu-jitsu, at grappling. And, look, I don’t think I use it too much as a measure anymore just because I know that he’s a different fighter now and I’m also improved and now there’s also punches,” Mir said about the grappling match. “It could have been worse for me in that match if he was allowed to punch me. He was on top quite a bit.”
Mir and Nelson are now friends and have been for awhile. They get along and like each other, but sometimes in prize fighting you have to fight your friends. It’s a concept Mir had to process in preparation for this match-up.
“You know what? At first, I kind of struggled with it a little bit mentally, but Giffy (striking coach Jimmy Gifford) and I were talking about it, and honestly, I’m sure Roy in training hits more people than he does in the fights. We’re in the gym a lot more hitting and practicing than in the fight itself.“ he said.
“And all the people I train with are people I eat dinner with afterwards and they hang out at my house or play video games with. So, these are all my friends, and I hit them a lot more often and harder than I hit any of my opponents.”
Mir faced criticism for an uninspiring performance in his last outing against Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic at UFC 119 from UFC president Dana White and fans alike, even though he finished with a devastating knockout in the final round.
“Obviously I listen to criticism because I know that if I’m not selling fights or giving good performances, that’s going to affect match-ups and paydays for me in the future,” said the former champion. “At the same time, though, I’m always balancing with no matter how excitingly I lose a fight, winning still is more important.”
They say it takes two to tango. No matter how prepared or determined a fighter is to have an exciting fight, they have to have the cooperation and willingness from their opposition… Nate Quarry vs. Kalib Starnes comes to mind.
“I mean obviously we’re always trying to become a better martial artist and a fighter. But at the end of the day, there’s somebody else in the ring who’s trying to do everything the opposite of what I want to happen. So, if the other guy started cooperating more, I’d look better,” he said. “ Some of the guys in the UFC are really tough. Not every day is your best day.
“Obviously if I could win excitingly, if I see the opportunity to always make a fight exciting, I’ll take it. But not at the cost of losing the fight.”