Frank Mir not content just putting on big fights

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

First impressions always matter, but in the UFC, where elite fighters are fortunate if they compete three times a year, it's the latest impressions that mean the most.

The most recent impressions Frank Mir has left on UFC management and fans have been dreadful.

Confidence, though, is one thing that the 34-year-old two-time heavyweight champion doesn't lack. And though he was routed by then-champion Junior dos Santos and Daniel Cormier in his last two outings, Mir's focus heading into a bout against Josh Barnett in the co-main event of UFC 164 on Aug. 31 in Milwaukee is where it has always been since he joined the company in 2001.

He's ready to begin yet another championship chase. A short memory helps in a business where fans and the media are only too eager to remind a fighter of his failings and shortcomings.

Some who lose multiple title bids hang around to collect paychecks and look for fights that will generate fan interest.

Mir, the longest-tenured fighter continuously on the UFC roster, looks for fights that will push him back up the ranks toward the title.

And so, at 34 and with two lopsided defeats perhaps suggesting he's not the same fighter he once was, Mir begins the long slog back toward the top.

"I don't concede to the fact to just try to put on great fights," Mir said. "An outcome of my drive is to actually work back towards a title. I don't see it as a situation where that is no longer within my grasp.

"The training I'm doing now [considering] where I'm at in life and stuff, being only 34 years of age, I don't really see it as an issue to concede to the fact that 'Oh, I'm only going to fight for it to be an entertaining fight. Just add it on to a card.' That's just not where I'm at in my life."

Mir, who joined the UFC on Nov. 2, 2001, at UFC 34, holds a slew of meaningful records. His 14 wins are the most by a heavyweight in UFC history. His 21 bouts are the most by a heavyweight, as well. His 11 finishes are a heavyweight record, as are his eight wins by submissions.

His eight submission victories rank third overall in the UFC and his submission of Tank Abbott was, at 46 seconds, the fastest in UFC heavyweight history.

He's got a Hall of Fame resume, particularly when considering that he has four victories over ex-heavyweight champions.

Mir, though, isn't satisfied, which is probably why he's achieved so much. Contentment is the enemy of accomplishment, and while Mir is rightfully proud of what he's done, he's by no means satisfied.

The battles he's fought over the years, as well as the effects of a 2004 motorcycle accident he was in that very nearly took his life, have conspired to rob him of some of his speed, quickness and athleticism.

But what he has lost in physical attributes he's made up for with improved technique, knowledge and experience. And that's what will make him a much better match for Barnett in 2013 than he would have been in 2002, when Barnett won the title by defeating Randy Couture at UFC 36.

That was only a few months after Mir made his UFC debut. One of the most candid men in the game, Mir admitted he probably wouldn't have been much of a match for Barnett in those days.

"I think if we would have fought back then, I would have given the fight to Josh," Mir said. "I think mentally, I wasn't as prepared and as strong as Josh having a very strong mindset. ... I think it has developed over the years and acknowledging that it was weak to begin with [encouraged me] to even work on it.

"So I think that if I had an opportunity early on in the fight maybe to get him, submission to catch somebody, [I would have been OK], but if the first couple of submissions had failed I think I would have been in a lot of trouble." 

The bout will match arguably the two best big men in the history of the sport in terms of submission. Barnett's only submission loss has been to strikes and he seems to have a high pain tolerance in the few times in his career that he's been caught in a submission hold.

Mir, whose striking has improved markedly since he began, said he'll fight the same way he always does. He's learned that he can't allow his opponent's reputation to alter his attack. He has prepared for Barnett's weaknesses, and is going to stick to his plan even if he can't get a quick sub.

"I've fought people before who never tapped to submissions," Mir said. "I think you have to have a respect and knowledge of what your opponent is capable of, but at the same time, you can't let it nullify your offense. You can't sit there and second guess yourself and go, 'Well, I'm not going to go for this because he'll obviously block it.'

"I think that's when sometimes respect goes too much into apprehension and it causes you to hesitate. I think you just fight the fight and prepare to know that, 'I'm probably going to have to link four or five or six different attempts together.' Obviously I don't see Josh falling victim to the first submission attempt that I just jump on, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm not going to go and attempt it anyways."

His ability to end a fight at any time from any position is what has kept him among the sport's elite big men for more than a decade.

Back-to-back losses – bad losses – haven't helped his cause, but his lengthy resume of success suggests he may get at least one more shot.

He might be able to overcome back-to-back losses, but a third in a row would all but destroy any hope he ever has of challenging for the belt once again.

He may not say it, but that will undoubtedly impact the way he fights Barnett.

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