No need to hammer Mir for crossing idiot line

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Frank Mir has never been afraid to speak his mind and in a Pittsburgh radio interview last week, the former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder unloaded on current champ Brock Lesnar.

He said they shared “legitimate hate” and “anger,” and then in a couple lines that went particularly crazy, declared he hoped he could essentially kill Lesnar if the two ever fight for a third time.

“I want to break his neck in the ring,” Mir said on the Mark Madden Show on WXDX. “I want him to be the first person that dies due to Octagon-related injuries.”

Crude. Ridiculous. And, even by cage fighting standards, unnecessarily barbaric. No one understands that more now than Mir himself, who backtracked from the comments Tuesday and expressed embarrassment that in trying to force a rematch with Lesnar he went too far. He said he was trying to explain a fighter’s mentality and it came out all wrong.

“I kind of lost myself there,” Mir told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday. “I got carried away. Obviously I don’t want to kill Brock Lesnar.”

For the most part, there was nothing to see here, no need to suspend or fine Mir for speaking out. The UFC in particular, and mixed martial arts in general, walk a fine line as they continue to move into the mainstream. Broken neck comments don’t help erase the old stigma of “human cockfighting.”

Here’s the thing, though: in the end the person most affected by Mir’s comments is Mir. If there was ever a sport where trash talking wasn’t just accepted but could even be applauded it is MMA. This isn’t some team sport or non-contact exercise.

This is cage fighting. How polite do you want these guys?

Frank Mir will have to deal with this and anything else he says when the door closes on the Octagon and big Brock Lesnar is standing across the way. That’s how it works. Talk all you want, there is no avoiding the bill coming due.

“I’m the one who’s going to have to answer for it,” Mir acknowledged.

Lesnar could very well pound Mir senseless again, the way he did at their last fight at UFC 100 in July 2009. Mir won the first fight between the two by submission in 2008.

Considering the stakes involved for any fighter who wants to run his mouth, it’s tough to get too upset when they do. It’s their risk. It’s on them. The thing that makes MMA so exciting – a true man vs. man battle – is why there can only be so much tsk-tsking over this.

Mir was talking big and it got out of control, going from colorful to cartoonish. “Idiotic” is how Mir described it.

Mir is a natural promoter, always willing to do media interviews and even serving as color commentator for World Extreme Cagefighting fights on the Versus Network. He knows what he’s doing and freely admits he’s been so vocal about attacking Lesnar because controversy doesn’t just help sell fights, it helps create them in the first place.

“Hype puts you in line for fights,” he said. “A Brock rematch is big on my list. I can’t let this control my emotions. The thing I want is to fight him. Obviously I took it too far.”

Mir takes on Shane Carwin, himself a vocal Lesnar basher, on March 27 in Newark, N.J. Assuming Lesnar’s recovery from illness is on schedule, the winner likely gets a title shot this summer, probably in Las Vegas in July.

Fighting Lesnar isn’t just the biggest payday out there for a fighter; it would give Mir a chance to avenge the disappointing UFC 100 result. While Mir and Lesnar weren’t friends before that one, and the trash talk from both sides was intense, there was still a relationship between the two.

Just three days before the bout, the fighters, both accompanied by their wives, ran into each other in a back hallway of the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Both were parents to newborns, Lesnar’s second child and Mir’s fourth. They actually took time to look at pictures of each other’s babies.

Mir said even that tenuous relationship was snapped when Lesnar continued to taunt Mir and pointed a finger in his face even after knocking him out in the second round of their fight. Lesnar defended it as saying he was full of post-fight emotion and Mir had talked smack in the run-up to the fight.

“I always understand we’re going to say things to help promote the fight,” Mir said. “But when it’s over with, it’s over with. For him to behave that way afterwards did bug me.”

No matter who is correct, Mir said his anger at Lesnar motivated him to push for a rematch a little too hard. Eight months later, Mir was on a radio show and went too far. “I wouldn’t want my kids to hear that,” he acknowledged.

The mini-controversy is likely over. Those that want to use the comments to cement a negative opinion of MMA probably will. Those that know better, and understand Mir’s personality, will brush them aside and look forward to the eventual clash.

And that’s the point with the UFC. As long as he avoids crossing the idiot line, Frank Mir should say pretty much anything he wants.

It is he and he alone who will have to deal with Brock Lesnar.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010