Of the thousands of fighters to pass through the UFC ranks, Frank Mir's story is one of the few that exudes all the necessary components of a Hollywood drama.
Mir has been a champion—but also a loser—and in the midst of all the chaos one goes through to ascend the ranks in the world's most prestigious fight promotion, lies a man who at one time was very troubled.
As a brilliant Brazilian jiu-jitsu tactician, Mir debuted inside the Octagon as a 22-year-old heavyweight prospect, with a lot of confidence and a penchant for taking home opponents' limbs. His mat skills were unprecedented, and forced more decorated BJJ artists, like Roberto Traven, to tap.
The Nevada native wasted no time making a name for himself in the 265-pound division, racking up four first-round wins (one via disqualification), en route to a showdown with heavy-handed champion Tim Sylvia at UFC 48.
The 6'8'' Sylvia was in the early stages of his title reign, and was undefeated with 12 knockout victories to his credit. Once again, Mir made it look easy, submitting The Maine-iac in less than in a minute, to become one of the youngest heavyweight champions in UFC history.
Not since the days of Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock had anyone showcased the type of grappling skills that Mir possessed. He saw openings that other fighters didn't, and possessed a sniper-like efficiency when slapping on a lock or hold.
Mir was a new breed of heavyweight, and showed that you didn't have to be the most nimble person to be a threat off of your back. He was most comfortable there.
No one was safe when in his clutches. Sylvia, Tank Abbott, Pete Williams and Travern were all submitted in Mir's guard.
With a relatively thin competition level at heavyweight—most of the division's best fighters like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Josh Barnett were fighting in Pride—Mir was poised for a lengthy tenure as champ. However, shortly after the events of UFC 48 in June 2004, the BJJ black belt nearly had his life cut short—let alone his time as a UFC titleholder—after a motorcycle accident.
On September 16, 2004, Mir was flung 80 feet from his Suzuki sport bike after a car careened into him, which shattered his leg and tore ligaments in his knee. Doctors were unsure if he'd ever be able to compete in the Octagon again.
The accident, which occurred days before his wedding to his current spouse Jennifer, left Mir dependent on pain medication. Once an unstoppable heavyweight force, he was now grounded and hopeless.
"The two years after that (the accident) were, I don't even know, I would say it was like hell," Jennifer Mir told Fightland in February. "He became addicted to the pain pills. He never became sober enough to think that he could be good."
Mir made his return to the cage 17 months after the accident—stripped of his title—and still dependent on pills. He was also out of shape.
The then-26-year-old was lethargic, and lost via first-round TKO to jiu-jitsu ace Marcio Cruz at UFC 57. Mir followed that up with a less-than-stellar victory over Dan Christison, before being ousted in the first round at the hands of Brandon Vera in November 2006.
Given his anguishing mental state following a 1-3 spell, Mir questioned if he had the ability to compete at a high level anymore, according to his wife Jennifer. We soon saw the answer, as Mir tapped Dutch striker Antoni Hardonk in 77 seconds at UFC 74.
Mir was officially back. He recorded his first submission victory since he defeated Sylvia for the belt.
From there, it was onward and upward. Mir continued to perfect an already superb submission attack, while upgrading his striking arsenal.
He stopped former World Wrestling Entertainment champion Brock Lesnar with a kneebar submission at UFC 81. It was a fight that tested his resolve after being taken down and dropped by a punch.
Then, Mir followed that up with a dominant second-round TKO of former Pride heavyweight champion Nogueira in December 2008.
Mir won the interim heavyweight championship against Nogueira, which set up a grudge match with The Beast Incarnate. He ultimately came up short in his efforts to recapture his lost title, and was unable to counter the overwhelming top game of Lesnar.
Though he was out-muscled by the NCAA Division I wrestler, Mir's focus was back. His competitive fire—punctuated by his heated rivalry with Lesnar—was smoldering.
He had climbed the ranks of the 265-pound division for the second time in his career, and he wasn't about to relinquish his position.
Mir went 4-1 in his next five bouts, tallying three finishes. His lone loss came to Shane Carwin, who put him away with strikes in the first round of their bout at UFC 111.
Sandwiched in between first-round dismissals of French kickboxer Cheick Kongo and Nogueira, were lackluster performances against Roy Nelson and Mirko Filipovic. While Mir was still every bit serviceable, he left fans with moments of doubt.
Mir was promoted into a third title shot against then champion Junior dos Santos at UFC 146 after the Brazilian's original opponent, Overeem, failed a pre-fight drug test.
Dos Santos shut Mir down, and picked him apart on the feet, until he swarmed on the submission specialist in the second round. The loss effectively relegated Mir to the role of UFC gatekeeper.
He lost his next three fights, elevating the stock of his foes, while witnessing his plummet. Following his loss to former K-1 kickboxing champion Alistair Overeem last February, Mir dropped out of the Top 10 in the heavyweight division.
Mir had become a laughing stock; the butt of everybody's joke. He hadn't recorded a "W" in over four years.
Mir spent over 12 months on the sidelines while recovering from multiple surgeries. The time spent away from mixed martial arts allowed his body to recharge.
With his back against the wall, and the UFC preparing to hand him his walking papers, Mir knocked out Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva in stunning fashion at UFC Fight Night 61.
The fighter, who previously contemplated retirement following a loss to The Reem, threw water on those notions with his latest win. For now, Mir will continue to write his legacy in the UFC history books.
In the 13-plus years that he has been with the promotion, Mir has put up more noteworthy performances than stinkers. His ground prowess and overall Octagon know-how carried him to new heights in a shallow division. Bleacher Report's Duane Finley wrote:
Mir's prowess on the mat made him Zuffa's first star in the heavyweight fold. Mir's snapping of Sylvia's arm became not only a stomach-turning highlight but somewhat of a calling card for the Nevada-based fighter. Simply put, Mir's submission skills were nothing to play with.
Mir gave the heavyweight division credibility at a time when it was yearning for contenders. He was a catalyst for change and a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to see it through.
After the motorcycle accident, Mir failed to regain the title he was never able to defend, just as guys like Lesnar and Dos Santos arrived on the scene. Though, he still piled up highly impressive wins over Nogueira and Kongo.
He also cruised to a victory over former IFL heavyweight champion Big Country.
MMA pundits will argue that Mir lacks a career-defining win. Well, that point is valid. He only has one win over a top-5 opponent—Big Nog at UFC 92.
Other than that, Mir's Octagon resume lacks any real star power. Pundits will also argue that he achieved championship status during the least memorable era of heavyweight fighters.
With most of the heavyweight elite fighting in Japan, you'd be hard-pressed to name a quality fighter in the UFC outside of men like Mir, Pedro Rizzo, Sylvia, Ricco Rodriguez and Andrei Arlovski on their roster at the time.
Mir may not have been consistent, but his numbers are hard to argue against.
"He sports the most wins in UFC heavyweight history along with the most finishes. He's also a two-time UFC heavyweight champion and has defeated a number of fellow UFC champs as well," Bleacher Report's Kyle Symes wrote.
I would liken Mir's chances of obtaining UFC immortality to one of professional baseball's best catchers, Mike Piazza. The New York Mets' great has repeatedly been snubbed by Hall of Fame voters.
It's not really a matter of if, but when. I think Mir is on the borderline of getting in, and could use a few more victories to end his career on a high note.