Frank Mir has made it clear that he's hungry to get back into the title mix in the heavyweight division.
When fellow Las Vegas native and friend Roy Nelson was announced as his opponent for UFC 130, the two time former champion openly lamented the pairing. Mir said he was hoping for a rematch with Shane Carwin, believing a win over Carwin would bring him closer to his ultimate goal than he'll get by beating Nelson next weekend. Not that he's overlooking "Big Country."
"Roy's a tough opponent. I'm really just looking at this fight; I haven't thought too much beyond it. In the past, I've caught myself looking past people, and I don't want to do that to Roy. He's a pretty tough guy, and I think anybody that overlooks him has ended up having a pretty tough night."
Though he says he's not looking past Nelson, Mir admittedly has thought about how he'd match-up with top contender Junior dos Santos.
He said earlier in the week that he believes he's stronger than the Brazilian and that he hits harder too, and Thursday, Mir added his personal critiques of "Cigano" into the mix as well.
"I just think that I match up well as far as dos Santos is a very good boxer, excellent hands. I just think that sometimes he falls into the pattern of only throwing boxing, and not utilizing wrestling and jiu jitsu and all the other skills."
Before he can worry about dos Santos or any of the other fighter he does consider to be elite contenders, Mir has to get through Nelson.
While Mir said he relishes the opportunity to fight at home when he can, the idea of getting into the cage with the former IFL champion gave him some difficulty initially. The two have trained together in the past, and separating friend from foe didn't come easily for Mir.
"At first I kind of struggled with it a little mentally, but Roy and I were talking about it, and honestly, I'm sure Roy hits people in training a lot more than he does in fights.
"We're in the gym more than often practicing than in fights themselves, and all the people I train with, people that I eat dinner with, people that hang out at my house or play video games with. They're all my friends, and I hit them a lot harder and a lot more often than I hit any of my opponents. That's the way I'm working it out."
Dealing with the difficulty of fighting a friend isn't the only thing Mir has had to wrestle with in advance of his meeting with Nelson next weekend.
Though he comes into the UFC 130 co-main event off a win, his performance against Mirko Cro Cop drew a great deal of criticism, most of which fell on Mir's shoulders.
"Guys in the UFC are really tough and not every day is your best day," offered Mir with a laugh Thursday afternoon, his humorous attempt to explain his middling performance against the former Pride standout. "At the end of the day, there's somebody else in the ring who is trying to do the opposite of what I want to happen. If the other guys start co-operating more, (laughs) I'd look better."
Had Nelson offered this explanation for his loss to Junior dos Santos two months earlier, he would have earned a raucous ovation, but not Mir. His confidence and swagger rubs some people the wrong way, so while Nelson can get away with a humorous answer and nothing more, Mir is forced to offer a secondary, more sincere answer.
"Obviously I listen to the criticism because I know that if I'm not selling fights or giving good performances, I know that's going to affect match-ups and pay-days for the future.
"At the same time though, I'm always balancing it with no matter how excitingly I lose a fight, winning is always the best and more important. If I can see an opportunity to win excitingly, I'll take it, but not at the cost of losing a fight."
Losing a fight to Nelson is something Mir has done in the past.
The two met in a Grappler's Quest tournament back in 2003 prior to Nelson making the transition to mixed martial arts; he was also a great deal slimmer in those days too. Some fans and pundits are pointing to that meeting as an indication of things to come next weekend, but Mir doesn't see it that way.
"The match happened and it stands for itself at that time that Roy was better than me at jiu jitsu. I don't think I use it as a measure too much anymore because I know that he's a different fighter, I've also improved, and now there are also punches. It could have been a lot worse for me if he was allowed to punch me because he was on top quite a bit."
Mir better hope that bout doesn't hold any meaning now, or else he's in for another long night at UFC 130, and won't get to find out if he does indeed match-up well with dos Santos any time soon.
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