Chasing The "Big White Whale": Inside The Decline Of Frank Mir

Monty HeldtContributor IMarch 31, 2010

NEW YORK - MARCH 24:  Frank Mir of Las Vegas, Nevada speaks at a press conference for UFC 111 at Radio City Music Hall on March 24, 2010 in New York City.  Mir will face Shane Carwin of Denver, Colorado in the INterim heavyweight title bout.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

"... to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee"    

a quote from Captain Ahab, as he threw his final shot out at the great white whale, Moby Dick


This is a line, that while possibly not familiar to Frank Mir, pertains heavily to the path his career is on, as it sits today.  


If you have tuned in to read, yet another commentary, on why Frank is over rated, or that he is done, I am afraid, that I offer quite the contrary.  Not many, besides "Stoker", a Mir fan, and unique author here on B/R, will tackle a support based read on Frank Mir.  I do, of course, welcome your commentary, however, will  not respond to insults and nonsense.  

I however, am a long time fan, and have seen him go through the up's and downs, that benefit, and befall, a long term, career mixed martial artist.  I believe, that he is easily capable of re establishing himself, among the top heavyweights in the world.  I would submit that the methods he has undertaken in the last year and a half, have certainly hindered his progress, in his quest, to be a champion of the UFC, once again.  At 30 years old, most of you will have a very hard time convincing me that he is done.

A year and half ago, Frank was the talk of the Heavyweight division.  Some talk was good, and some was bad, but his name was in the air nonetheless, and in mma, these guys do this, so that we notice them, ahead of their peers.   On December 28, 2008 Frank added the third name to his fighting resume, that no other heavy weight out there could say.  "I have beaten Sylvia, Lesnar, and Big Nog".

Oh, and whats that?  This is the part when the collective community of MMA faithful, jump in with a "he got lucky against Lesnar" or a "big Nog looked like a zombie".  They also throw out an occasional "he got beat by Brandon Vera", as if some type of adequate defense.

Allow me, before we get too far here, to explain, the way the real world works.

Firstly, and early.  There is no lucky in MMA.  One does not get in the cage, with the monster, Mr. Brock Lesnar, best him in the first round with a ground tactic, if he is lucky.  It happened, on the contrary because he was good.  Better, and smarter than Brock on that night.  Did the ref, stand up the fight too soon...yeah, perhaps.  Did Brock inadvertently leave a leg out there, to get "knee barred", due to inexperience, and/or a mistake?  Yes, of course.  But Mir was a journeyman fighter, who seized opportunity, and put a L, on the record, of Lesnar, who you will not hear me indicate, is not either 1,2, or 3 of all heavyweight mma fighters in the world today.

Second, Big Nog has been fighting for a very long time.  Yes, he had a staph infection, and yes, he may even have looked a bit sluggish.  However, this was not the fault of Mir.  Nog could have pulled and ran, and lived to fight that fight another day.  On the contrary, he got in the cage, and lost.  Again, and more so at the time, Nog was among the best on the planet.  You will never hear Big Nog, making that excuse, and so, I do not accept it from the common man.

Finally, no fighter in mma, is invincible.  Every fighter, on the wrong day, in the wrong condition, or the wrong place will lose, at some point.  It gets multiplied in triple, when you take into consideration that the guy throwing fists and feet at your face, hits as hard as a jackhammer.  A loss in mma, can be devastating, but not every fighter that loses a bad fight, or two, is done.  (including losing to Vera)

A win is a win.  There are no hollow victories.  On those days, Frank Mir, hate him or love him, bested the guys across from him, fair and square, and the UFC, who for all intent purposes, is the authority having jurisdiction here, openly acknowledges such.  A trip to wikipedia, shows an L beside the name of Lesnar, and a W, beside the name of Mir, on those dates.  No other commentary, such as "lucky", appear anywhere near it.  

But it was after the Big Nog fight, that I submit to you, that Frank went from skilled journeyman fighter, to a replica of the tyrannical Captain Ahab, obsessed with proving to the world that his wins, and his career accomplishment, were not flukes.

Going in to UFC100, Frank was feeling pretty good about his chances, against the monstrous wrestler, and inexperienced mma fighter, Brock Lesnar.  He was thoroughly dominated, and in all honesty, may be again and again.  Frank, in the words of Stoker himself, has an achilles heel.  He fares poorly against big, powerful wrestlers, that have the ability to control his movements, his bjj, and his boxing.  I will admit it, only because after the Carwin loss, it seems like it is true.  He lost, and did so without excuses afterwards, I might add.  But again, an "L" is an "L".  

But, since it was ok for fans of Brock, to throw out analogies as to why Brock was beaten in the first place by Mir, then allow me to throw out why I feel Frank lost in the second bout.  For starters, Brock was paid a guaranteed purse, of 500 grand for the UFC100 bout.  Do you know what Frank was guaranteed?  45 thousand dollars.  The fighters use that, and a bit of sponsorship money, to pay for training, travel, nutrition, therapy, etc.  The fact is that a competitive imbalance, occurred at the contract signing.  Its not something you will ever hear Mir talk about, in much the same vane as Lesnar would talk all day about "horseshoes" in special places. 

But the unprofessional, post match tirade by Lesnar, was actually what I feel inflamed a revenge desire in Frank.  One, in all honesty, we had never had occasion to see.  And that is where, his beginning to the dark path, came from.  There were several factors, that got him to the Carwin loss.  The facts are that, no fighter, that has maintained any level of success in mma, by fighting angry.  But here is some of what I feel happened:

A) Between when Frank beat Brock, and lost to him, Lesnar faced Randy Couture.  I was impressed by Lesnar for the first time after that fight.  He was fighting a competitive, sportsmanlike, and true pro that night, and acted as such in victory, in return.  The facts are that simply put, Brock knew after losing to Mir, that he had to get better, and play towards his strengths as a fighter.  The win against Couture, proved that Lesnar could in fact, be considered among the best heavy's in the World. Lesnar, has improved, and some came as a result, of the disappointment of losing to Mir in the first place.

B) Call it the Gonzaga factor.  In the aftermath of UFC100, Frank took a fight against french striker, Cheick Kongo.  He pounded him out, mostly in the stand up game, and came in heavier/thicker than I have ever seen him.   In the Nog fight as well, he chose to try to win the fight standing.  As we all know, a highlight reel ko, gets you a long ways in the UFC.  Gabe Gonzaga, has had his ass kicked, ever since he "crocopped", Mirko Cro Cop.  Frank, like Napao, is a BJJ Black Belt.  Yet, he insists on trying to win fights, using gameplans that are both similar to, and suited to his opponents.  Gonzaga, with the highlight reel ko, was given money, acclaim, a title shot, bonuses, and a ton of publicity.  What has it got him since?  A pile of losses, and possible brain damage.  This is not the guy to pattern your career after, at the moment.  MMA is not a game of chicken.

C) Speaking of unprofessional comments, what was the whole, "I want to make Brock the first in ring casualty, in mma".  I mean, like, huh?  What purpose could have this served you might have asked yourself.  I know I did, and it shook the foundation of fandom for me.  

However, in looking it over, the facts are that this is the universe that the UFC has created.  Consider, the U has no published or sanctioned rankings.  Independents, post them, but the U does not accredit them as real.  This last weekend, Dan Hardy, the 4 or 5th best welterweight in the UFC was given a title shot, at Georges St. Pierre.  Did he beat any of the top 3 welterweights, in Alves, Fitch, or Koschek?  Did he beat the former champion, in Matt Hughes, or Matt Serra?  Did he beat any of the top 8, in fact, other than Mike Swick?  No.  He is brash, has a sexy haircut, european following, punk rock music, and is new, and popular.  This is not me saying that new blood should not be welcomed into the UFC.  It is me saying that in the UFC, if you are popular, or hated, and have your name on the tongues of the general public and media, you will be pushed to the top.  

Frank was simply playing the game, by the rules of the Fertittas, Joe Silva, and Dana White.  He was purposely trying to keep his name out there, by playing the villian, and trying to hype a fight.  Of course, we all know now, that Shane Carwin, someone who just shows up to fight, and isn't much for trash talking, had other plans.  But that doesn't mean it wasnt working.  Even Brock was mentioning Frank in response, as a "stalker".  Frank was, and I would say still is, clamoring for people, to want Brock to shut him up.  Its the best way to get a title shot in the UFC, at the moment.

D) Speaking of Carwin, he looked right past him.  He, like me, thought, "The guy has a lot of wins, but they are against nobodies".  And they are.  But, at this size and weight, with hands as heavy as Carwin has, anything is possible.  I question the decision to stand and bang with Shane, who although a good wrestler, simply does not have the pedigree of a Brock Lesnar.  Frank had no reason to beleive that he couldn't fight on the ground with Shane.  He, and his handlers are setting up his gameplans, to match and best his opponents, at their own likely gameplans.  Again, he needs to play to his strengths.  Being as not every heavyweight is a bjj black belt, that might be a start.

Is he done?  Over-rated?  Out of the mix?


As much as some hope so, I do not believe so.  Frank has had a series of ups and downs in his career.  Losing to Vera, obviously, was something he came back from.  As was his motorcycle accident.  I would say that no fighter in the UFC, has gotten there without the tools to come back from adversity.  Will he let the memory and the deep seeded feeling of revenge on Less, drive him further into poor decisions, fights, and comments?  Will he chase the big white whale, until his demise?  Will the naysayers, and haters, finally get what they all want so bad?  This division, is growing, and the players involved are hungry, young, and ready to do whatever they have to do.

The only one with an answer to that, is Frank Mir.