Ahead of his first fight in two years, Frank Mir is in love with his work
For the second time in his illustrious MMA career, former two-time heavyweight world champion Frank Mir (18-11) has been in the midst of a long layoff from competition. Nearly 15 years ago, Mir was forced out of action for almost two years after sustaining serious injuries in a motorcycle accident that threatened his life.
This week, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt will return to competition for the first time in over two years, after serving a USADA suspension for banned substances, when he faces fellow former world champion Fedor Emelianenko (36-5) at Bellator 198 in Rosemont, IL. Mir’s first long time away from competition involved lots of physical pain and frustrating rehabilitation work due to his serious injuries.
Still, Mir tells us that this most recent layoff has likely been the more challenging one. “The other one was due to injuries and it’s painful and that is very hard. This one is due to other factors, with USADA and stuff, and it’s a little more stressful,” he admits Monday evening after completing the final day of his training camp at home in Las Vegas before he and his team will fly out Tuesday to Chicago.
“With the period of time being what it was, and now being a father, and husband, there’s a lot of stress of just making ends meet. You’ve got to figure out how to keep the lights on, so to speak, and keep everything above board.”
Mir certainly had practical considerations that prodded him towards making a return to combat once his two-year USADA suspension would be up, but we wonder how the competitor in him felt throughout it all. Was there ever a time in the past two years, we ask Mir, where he accepted the possibility that he might not fight again?
Was there ever a time when the big man, now just a month away from his 39th birthday, thought to himself that he would be alright with ending his pro MMA career where it stood? If this was, in fact, the end? “I never really accepted it,” he says without hesitation.
“I still wanted to compete. I’m still able to go out there and perform and do things so to sit there and think that I was done didn’t really occur to me. It was not about how it would end if I stopped now, but rather about the amount of time ahead of me. I think I’m too young to stop yet.”
Mir has time and again shown himself to be an athlete who truly relishes the scrap itself, the act of fighting in the ring and cage. So, it isn’t surprising that the all-time great still has a desire to mix it up under the big lights.
Yet, at his elite level, there is so much more that goes into a fight happening months before the fight ever takes place. When Mir signed with Bellator to fight Emelianenko, we wonder, was there ever a part of him that wondered if he would still be hungry enough to grind it out every day in training, multiple times a day for months on end in training camp?
“You wonder if there will come a point where you’re going to get older and not want to do this anymore, but that just never came to fruition,” he explains.
“I never had a lack of love for the game of MMA. I watch it all the time, commentating, doing the podcast with Richard Hunter, and I just enjoy martial arts. I enjoy doing it, calling it, all of it.
“I’ve enjoyed training boxing again with Angelo Reyes, and doing Karate with him which takes me back to my roots of training with my father. Also, Jiu-Jitsu is ever-evolving, so is MMA on the whole, so I just love learning more about the sport. Really, commenting has helped me keep my sanity (laughs) because it has kept me around the sport so much and watching what guys are doing with technique.”
Mir has kept his mind engaged in the sport he loves, but on Saturday he’ll finally get to experience it in full once more as a competitor. After nearly 17 years as a pro, Mir has likely experienced just about everything there is to on fight night.
We ask him what he imagines will be the most enjoyable part of the process for him that he’s missed for so long, and his answer is striking. Fairly or unfairly, the knock on Young Frank Mir back in the day, say around the time he first became world heavyweight champion, or had to do grueling work to get back from the shattering injuries sustained from his 2004 motorcycle accident, was that the prodigious athlete didn’t always embrace consistent, hard work in the gym.
Whether or not that was ever true of him in the past, it certainly does not seem to be of Mir, of late. His head striking coach Angelo Reyes has heaped praise in conversation with us about the gusto with which Mir has embraced what he says is the typical three-a-day training schedule during this camp.
Reflecting on what he anticipates enjoying most on fight night, Mir’s answer seems to point to his valuing an embrace of process and journey, over everything else. He plans on winning, of course, and his first win since 2015 would doubtless be thrilling.
Still, Mir insists that, more than looking forward to the spectacle and possible glory ahead of him, he has once more fallen in love with the daily minutiae of a fighter’s life.
“You know, I think at the end I’ll have enjoyed most what’s already occurred back in the gym during training,” he ends.
“When you don’t have a fight in front of you, you still train but it isn’t quite the same. With another fight in front of me, I can’t say it was easy for me to get away from other obligations, with my family and such, but at least then you got that look, like, ‘you’ve got a fight, so you’d better get to the gym’ (laughs). It’s been nice to have again, and I’ve loved the whole process.”
Image courtesy of Frank Mir. From left to right, nutritionist Arin Adjamian, assistant coach James Horne, Frank Mir, hand wrap specialist Bob Ware, head striking coach Angelo Reyes, strength and conditioning coach Adrian Ramirez.