All the Cage: Bella Mir set for pro debut; Junyong Park's amazing UFC record

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·5 min read
A weekly look at MMA’s hottest topics.
A weekly look at MMA’s hottest topics.

Bella Mir is a 17-year-old junior at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, where she’s a member of the girls’ wrestling team. Her plan is to go to college and, like many her age, she got a part-time job to earn money for her education.

But Mir’s job is a lot different than most, though it’s not that shocking if you know who her famous father is.

Bella Mir, whose father is Bellator heavyweight and former UFC champion Frank Mir, is going to become a professional mixed martial artist. She’ll debut on Thursday in Mexico in a fight in the Ikon Fighting Federation against Danielle Wynn.

She’s literally been around the fight game her entire life. As a toddler, her mother, Jen, brought her to see her father fight. At Bellator 212 in 2018, the teenaged Mir worked her father’s corner.

It was just a natural progression for her.

“I’ve always wanted to be a professional athlete, and I still want to go to college,” she told Yahoo Sports. “I found a way that I could fight and then still go to college. Maybe fighting can pay off my college debt, hopefully. College is still an option and it was always an option in my head. I’ve always wanted to go to college. I’ve always wanted to wrestle in college and get an education. So this is pretty exciting to be able to do this.”

Because of her father’s connections, she’s had access to high-end sparring and the best coaching. Robert Drysdale is her jiu-jitsu coach and John Wood has worked with her on her striking. Her father, Frank, is serving as the head coach.

Frank Mir said it was his wife who first suggested that Bella turn pro.

“Bella is just a different human being,” Frank Mir said. “Most 17-year-olds, I wouldn’t even think of trying to put them into this situation because of the mental strain on them. Bella’s always been so diligent and disciplined and focused. She’s driven more than anyone I’ve ever met and I’ve hung out with a lot of world champions. Watching her compete in the room against the level of fighters that come through Syndicate and watching her grapple and training at Drysdale’s gave me a lot of confidence about what her abilities are, how good she is and being comfortable with her doing this.

“Honestly, up until about six weeks ago, if you would have asked me, I’d have said, ‘Oh no, we’re just going to wait and do amateur fights and take things really slowly.’ But my wife came to me and brought it up. Every fight takes something out of you … and so why have 10 unnecessary fights at the amateur level? She’s been around this sport since she was born and training basically since she could walk.”

Bella will compete as a bantamweight, and though she’s going to garner a lot of attention because of her last name, she said she’s comfortable with it. She is a blue belt in jiu-jitsu.

“I know there are expectations on me, but I don’t get pressure from that,” she said. “It motivates me to perform.”

Making a name off of Phillips

In June, Khamzat Chimaev finished John Phillips in the second round of their middleweight fight in Abu Dhabi. He was so dominant in that fight that it was his first step toward stardom.

On Saturday on Fight Island, another fighter was impressive in a one-sided win over Phillips, who is known as “The Welsh Wrecking Machine” but was wrecked himself for the second consecutive bout.

He lost a unanimous decision to Junyong “The Iron Turtle” Park, who had an amazing total of 13 minutes, 11 seconds of top control in the 15-minute fight. He was 4-for-4 on takedowns, even though Chimaev visited Phillips in the dressing room before the fight and was giving him takedown defense tips. And Park landed an amazing 260 of the 350 total strikes he threw.

It wasn’t as dominant as Chimaev’s win, but Park, who is 2-1 in the UFC now, looked very strong. He set a UFC record with 258 ground strikes landed.

“I’m a company man, and I don’t care about the records,” Park said. “Whoever they send me, I’ll hit.”

Murphy thankful for new opponent

Lauren Murphy was supposed to fight Cynthia Calvillo on Saturday at UFC 254, a fight that would have been helpful to Murphy in her goal of getting a flyweight title shot. (Side note, though: Does anyone really want to fight champion Valentina Shevchenko? I mean, come on.)

Calvillo is ranked third in the division and Murphy is fourth. But Calvillo was forced out of the fight after a positive COVID-19 test and has been replaced by UFC newcomer Liliya Shakirova.

“It’s a huge risk,” Murphy said. “I’m at the top right now. This fight with Cynthia was a big fight. It was going to mean a lot of things. To step in and fight somebody who’s brand new that we know nothing about, yeah, it’s a huge risk. But it was a risk I was willing to take to come out and have the ‘Fight Island’ experience and hopefully cement my place in the division. So it never occurred to me, ‘Let’s not do this.’ I told [matchmaker] Mick [Maynard], ‘Put me on the plane. I’ll fight whoever.’ It’s going to work out, for sure.”

He said it

“I think every mixed martial artist thinks about fighting in the UFC, whether they’re a guy like me who fought outside the UFC for 10 years, 11 years, or you’re a guy who just starting fighting. I never knew for sure if it was going to happen, but doors open and close at the right time. That door opened and I jumped through it.” — New UFC lightweight Michael Chandler, who is the backup for the Khabib Nurmagomedov-Justin Gaethje fight, on leaving Bellator and signing with the UFC as a free agent

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