At 33, most athletes are on the downside of their careers.
Frank Mir, however, says he hasn’t even begun to think about retirement, even though he’s coming off a late May loss to Junior dos Santos at UFC 146 in Las Vegas that dropped his record to 16-6.
It was Mir’s first loss in more than two years, and he said on Thursday it is back to the drawing board as he attempts to regain the UFC heavyweight title he’s fought for and lost three times since 2008.
“One thing about our sport, because there are so many skills involved, we can fight long into our age. It’s not like some other sports, when you start getting toward the end of your 20s being highly competitive is unreasonable,” Mir said, in town for the annual Lakehead Sports Celebrity Dinner.
“I mean Randy Couture was a champion in his 40s. I have a few injuries and stuff, obviously from being a professional fighter for 11 years, the wear and tears. But it’s nothing the orthopedic surgeon can’t fix.”
Born May 24, 1979 in Las Vegas, Mir is a two-time heavyweight champion whose 14 wins in the weight class is a record – as his eight submission wins.
Though he’s slipped to No. 4 in the world, according to ESPN’s MMA Power Rankings, the 33-year-old thinks he can get back on top again.
“I actually feel better than I ever have, I think because I’m a little more disciplined about my training,” said Mir, who fights with Brazilian jiu-jitsu style, incorporating karate, boxing and wrestling into his game.
“I think when you’re younger you blow things off a little bit more because you think you’ve got a bit more time. I think because of my age I’m a bit more focused. And so because of that my conditioning has hit an all-time high. So I actually feel better and better every time. I haven’t hit that plateau yet.”
A graduate of Bonanza High School in Las Vegas, Mir went 44-1 in his senior year as a wrestler, and first got interested in mixed martial arts when UFC matchmaker Joe Silva visited a local school. By 2001 Mir made his professional MMA debut, vaulting into the UFC within a year. By 2004 he was the heavyweight champ, taking out Tim Sylvia in an infamous bout that saw Mir snap Syliva’s radius bone in his arm, breaking it in four places.
But the joy was short-lived.
Three months later, on Sept. 17, 2004, Mir was involved in a motorcycle accident, resulting in a broken leg and torn ligaments in his knee. Eventually, because he was unable to return to the ring, Mir was stripped of his title and had to work his way back to the top, a task he began in earnest in early 2006.
He beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in December 2009 for the interim heavyweight championship, but lost to Brock Lesnar the following year in a title bout, a year-and-a-half after beating him in their first meeting.
“I had a lot of highs being champion and obviously some trip-ups, car wrecks involving me on a motorcycle, that I’ve had to overcome and once again move up and win titles again. You try to move forward and try to make do the best you can,” Mir said.
As for career highlights, there are too many to pinpoint just one, he said.
“I think after 11 years of fighting UFC it’s kind of hard to narrow it down to one moment.”
One thing’s for sure, he’s been glad to be along for the ride with the UFC, which has rapidly become one of the world’s most popular sporting spectacles.
The appeal is universal, he said.
“I think that it’s replaced boxing in a lot of ways as the premier combat sport. The fans are interested in one-one-one competition,” he said.
“Boxing, in the last couple of years, has kind of lost its foothold on that. I think the MMA just sparked the imagination of a martial arts event that people could get behind and understand and I think the UFC just has a high entertainment value.
“I always tell people, at the end of the day, it’s like live-action superheroes. You watch a movie to watch a super guy walk around and beat people up, and you know, we actually are those people in real life.”