by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com

Interim UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir would have thrown in the towel if his family had let him. Following his loss to Marcio Cruz at UFC 57, he wanted out of the fight game. The leg injury that had taken two years from his professional life had also taken his spirit. 

“When I came back from what I came back from, I wish I could make the statement that the odds were against me and I never gave up,” Mir told reporters after his win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92. “I did. I think a lot of people don’t realize that your heroes when you look at them – maybe some people are better than me – but I’m not that guy.” 

Mir’s family was there in the media room, cheering him on as they had in the two years of his re-emergence. He fought back tears thanking them. 

“The only reason I am where I am now is cause of my wife, my family, my father and mother, my children,” he said. “That’s the only individuals that kept me going. If it wasn’t for them, you would never see me fight again, after my first fight back.” 

Mir had a lot of fear and anxiety leading up to the Nogueira fight, not just because he was fighting one of the world’s best, but the training he had to endure to get there. In a reversal from standard operating procedure, Mir found guys who were better than him in their respective fields. Boxers from Olympic coach Kenny Adams’ gym; jiu-jitsu aces Robert Drysdale and Demian Maia; men who would knock him out or submit him on a regular basis.

“I wouldn’t have done that two years ago,” Mir said. “I had too much of an ego. Now, I realize that’s not the way to go.” 

His conditioning, a question that followed him wherever he went, was finally where it needed to be. He didn’t have to worry about what would happen if a fighter lasted past the first round.  

“Before, I’d walk into the Octagon terrified of getting tired,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about the guy I’m fighting; I was thinking man, if this fight doesn’t end in two minutes, I’m in a lot of trouble. Tonight, it could go 10 rounds; it doesn’t matter. I could be here all night long, and I won’t lose in any position. That’s a whole different mentality.” 

Mir says the stoppage came by complete surprise. Though he had knocked the Brazilian down three times in the first round, he always expected the fight go the distance.  

“I always imagined – as gruesome as it sounds – I imagined that I would get him in a submission and I would break something, the fight would keep on going, and he would be less of a fighter than he was during the match-up,” he said. “I saw something in him that I never expected to see, that he was actually dazed.” 

Mir smelled blood, and dove in to finish the fight, despite his previous game plan to avoid being drawn into a ground fight with Nogueira. When Mir was declared the winner, there was joy, followed by a proclamation to Brock Lesnar, who sat cageside. 

“Be careful what you wish for,” Mir told him. 

Then there were tears, the release of four years of hoping he would return to previous form. He had beaten his idol, and fought at 100 percent. 

Mir now appears set to take on Lesnar sometime in the second quarter of 2009 in a rematch from their UFC 81 bout. Mir submitted the UFC heavyweight champion with 90 ticks on the clock. In the buildup to UFC 92, fans and pundits kept reminding him about the implications of a win against Nogueira, but that was the furthest thing from his mind. 

“I didn’t make the mistake of looking past this fight,” he said. “I really haven’t put too much thought into it.” 

Nonetheless, the victory over Nogueira will give him a huge boost in confidence when he faces current champ Lesnar. 

“A win over Nogueira is huge,” he said. “People who have wins over Nogueira are pretty highly touted individuals, and now I’m a part of that name.” 

UFC 92 VIDEO: UFC 92 Post-Fight Press Conference 

UFC 92 VIDEO: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Post-Fight Interview 

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UFC 92 VIDEO: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson Post-Fight Interview 

EXCLUSIVE: UFC 92 Photo Gallery