The subject of Zuffa’s recent purchase of Strikeforce came up and what that meant for the current crop of UFC heavyweights and Strikeforce’s big men. There has been a lot of talk of super-fights since the acquisition was announced, but what is the reality of any of those potential matchups coming to fruition?
“It now means that pretty much every single top 10 heavyweight is under one promotion. I have been with the UFC since 2001 and there was the argument about which organization had the better group of heavyweights, the UFC or Pride,” said Mir.
“Then those guys came over and I beat Nogueira and Mirko and got to lay those arguments to rest in my mind. Strikeforce has a pretty solid group of fighters and the argument started between our guys and theirs. I said if their guys are better why are we getting paid more, now that the UFC bought Strikeforce maybe we can find out which organization has the better group of fighters. I look at Overeem as their top guy and I feel as though I would be his best matchup in the UFC. Guys like Brock, Cain and Carwin would expose his weakness which is his wrestling.”
“He has good submissions and is obviously a solid striker so if we fought there would be a lot more action than if he fought one of the wrestlers,” Mir said. “The three guys I mention would look to keep him down and control him to avoid his striking. There’s not a lot of room to move around so if Brock wants to take him down he is going to have a good shot at doing so. Overeem is a K-1 champion and has a really good guillotine, but I think I’d be a really good matchup for him.”
According to Mir, the purchase of Strikeforce will be a lot like when the UFC bought the WEC. With the different television contracts, there wasn’t really any guys jumping back and forth between promotions, Showtime will want to keep their contracted fighters on their cards.
“I think it’ll be a really long time before we see any guys crossing paths simply due to the contracts their guys may have with Showtime. Versus wanted to keep the WEC guys on their network so it was either you were going to fight for the WEC or for the UFC, not both,” Mir said candidly.
“Unless a guy gets cut from one organization, I doubt you will see guys’ crossing over.”
With the departure of Randy Couture to retirement following his loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC 129, I wrote about who could possibly step up and take on the role of ambassador for the organization and the sport.
Is Mir the type of guy who can see himself fighting into his 40’s and helping the UFC educate the average person about MMA and the athletes that fight for them? “I was able to meet, talk and train with Randy on several different occasions,” said Mir.
“I’m glad he made it out of the Octagon without any serious injuries, there comes a time when everyone has to hang it up. I’m impressed with how he went out, he chose a really difficult opponent to face in Machida. He took on one of the top guys in the world who is difficult match-up for anyone.”
“This is the type of guy who does a great job avoiding all of Randy’s strong suits. I thought Randy looked awesome during the first round; I whispered over to my wife and said if he keeps this up he might not retire! I feel bad when I complain my back hurts, yet here is this guy who is much older & is moving around the ring like he’s in the prime of his life,” offered Mir.
“Someone forgot to tell him he’s not in his prime anymore.”
Many people have alluded to Couture as a freak of nature, but Mir feels as though that statement takes away from what really separates Couture from the rest of the pack. His hard work, dedication and his desire to improve each and every time he fights.
“Labeling him as a freak of nature could discourage other people from following in his path. Randy is determined, if you look at his record, it’s not like he is 30-0, he has gone up against some guys and hit some bumps in the road,” Mir explained.
“When he loses he goes back in the shop, he is driven to improve on what went wrong. If he was a freak of nature he would have gotten it right the first time and never had to work at it. What makes him so dangerous is his will power, you can be stronger and faster than another man, but when you have a guy like Randy coming after you with a mindset of I’m not giving up until one of us is no longer here. That’s what Randy embodies, he has that attitude of you can knock me down, but I am never going to quit.”
Mir is still relatively young and besides being injured in a horrific motorcycle accident that cost him the UFC Heavyweight Championship, he has managed to stay relatively healthy. A lot of that has to do with hard work, luck and genetics, but for Mir, as long as his body is willing, he doesn’t see an end in sight.
“I would like to fight into my 40’s, I’ve heard a quote that says retirement after the game is the rest of your life,” jokingly said Mir. “I’ve been doing this professionally for over 10 years now. A lot of my development as a man has taken place inside the Octagon. I was doing this before I had kids, before I was married so everything I have done since then has been done as a UFC fighter.”
"Barring any bad injuries I will keep fighting, I want to maintain a certain quality of life,” Mir explained.
Couture was seen as an icon, a hero; that is why he had nicknames of Captain America and The Natural. While Mir probably won’t be confused with Couture in that regard, he does see himself filling the role of ambassador and being a spokesman for the organization.
“I think that I have a good understanding of people and I am quick with words. I get aggravated sometimes when people have a misconception of how dangerous our sport is,” Mir said confidently. “I ask people if they watch football and they’ll say yes, so I tell them that this will be an argument because they have already shown me that violence is not an issue for them.”
“A guy running down the field weighing 240lbs with 4.4 speed is in the top one percentile of athletes in the world. He hits into another player with his helmet and not only is that a lot more painful than what we are doing it's a lot more dangerous. When a fight is over I get up and I may have a few knicks or bruises, but they heal. I hear stories about football players being so injured they have to pee inside water bottles because they can’t get up to go to the bathroom.”
“If we all put Gi’s on and bowed before we fought, people would say that’s awesome. Well we are still fighting the same style, with the same punches, kicks, knees and submissions. I am always trying to educate people on the truth and the facts about our sport," Mir said. "
If I encounter a guy who is a complete pacifist then I can understand where he is coming from and I won’t try to win him over.”
When I told Mir that my six-year-old son was in his second year of BJJ and that some friends of mine had become critical of my decision to place him in a combat sport at that young of an age, he really got animated and defended my decision to allow my son the chance to compete at such a young age.
“The most important thing he is learning is that every day he claps hands with someone and rolls with them he may be a little bit nervous, but he is handling a situation that he probably would rather not be in,” Mir explained.
“He is already learning skills that will crossover into life when he goes on interviews and goes to college. He is learning how to face adversity head-on when he faces another six-year-old who is trying to hold him down he will learn the difference between what is real fear and what is not.”
“These are things that can only be taught in sports, they can’t be taught inside a classroom you can’t allow these kids to be too comfortable. When you do you are creating a generation of kids who just want to play video games and watch MTV all day long. Are these the type of kids we want leading our country or enrolling in the military? Hell no, I know I don’t.”
I asked Mir about what was the best way to find an instructor who was legitimate and who really cared about the kids he was training. “A guy can be really strict as an instructor, but if he really cares about his students and that they do well it’ll show right away. The only time an instructor is strict, but comes off as an asshole is when he really doesn’t want to be there. That’s when I have to question why he wants to be a teacher.”
“It doesn’t matter if your kid is in Tae-Kwon Do, Karate or BJJ; it is teaching him about discipline and how to face their fears head on. You are doing a great service by putting your child into any martial art. It is teaches them social skills and about themselves in ways that nothing else can. This will help him how to deal with anxiety. Martial arts has helped me out in all my endeavors, it helped me deal with my fears and I can walk in front of a camera and talk to people.”