Fighting has always been in Frank Mir’s blood. The Las Vegas native and two-time UFC heavyweight champ—who faces current champ Junior dos Santos in the main event of UFC 146 on May 26 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena—received his introduction to martial arts via his father, Frank Sr., at his dad’s Kenpo Karate studio in the 1980s. His combat learning curve accelerated at Bonanza High School, where as a senior Mir went 44-1 as a wrestler in 1998 and won the state title.
Things came almost as easy to Mir after he joined the homegrown UFC. He won six of his first seven matches, and after breaking Tim Sylvia’s arm in just 50 seconds at UFC 48, the then-25-year-old was again a champion. But in September 2004, just three months removed from his crowning moment in the octagon, Mir found himself in the fight of his life after getting blindsided while riding his motorcycle. The wreck—which shattered his femur and tore multiple knee ligaments—not only threatened his UFC career, but Mir’s ability to even walk again. Yet, just 17 months later, he was back in the cage.
While he lost his first fight back and needed a couple of years to return completely to his old form, Mir—who has won seven of his last nine fights, including handing Brock Lesnar his first loss and the first-ever knockout and submission of MMA legend Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira—is poised to add a third title, which the self-described family man recently joked on UFC Primetime would be one for each of his three children: Isabella, Kage and Ronin.
Do you still think about your accident daily?
For the most part, I’m over it. There are things I’ve learned and benefited from it, that I’ve earned and owned. But I don’t sit and think about where they come from. It’s like if you have a good habit that your father instilled in you, you don’t think of your father every time you do it. You just do it.
In 19 UFC fights, you’ve only allowed the judges to decide things twice. How will your bout against Dos Santos play out?
It’s going to be a submission in probably the second or third round. He’s going to stay away from me until I bully him into the clench. Eventually I’ll catch up to him, and once I get ahold of him, it won’t last much longer.
What do you make of Dos Santos’ comments on UFC Primetime that you give up when the going gets tough?
I tried to look back and see if there was any intelligence behind those statements. I watched the Shane Carwin fight again to see where he thinks I was hurt. I don’t know. He’s trying to sell the fight possibly. What he said, he said. When I sell fights, I typically try to find something that has some validity and truths [behind it].
You’ll be 33 at UFC 146. Could this be your last legitimate opportunity to win another title?
No, that’s a silly question. Look at Dan Henderson; he’s a little bit older than that, and he’s fighting for a title against Jon Jones. Randy Couture was in his 40s. Our sport doesn’t work that way. I’d have to personally choose to retire or not get paid. That’s about it.
Primetime also revealed you’re a gun enthusiast. What’s your weapon of choice?
Whichever one is closest. I probably enjoy my AK-47 the most. It’s accurate to what I need. I’ve never had it malfunction on me. Some other firearms run well, but they have a situation here or there. I’m gonna be honest with you, that’s always in the back of my mind: “What if it didn’t work when I needed it to?”
Obviously you are a big guy, but you went vegan for a year. What dish did you miss the most?
Just regular meat. I’m a big fan of steak; missing out on that was hard. The other thing I’d eat the most, especially when I’d go to a restaurant, was sushi.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao: Who wins? Or does the fight never happen?
The fight never happens, and talking about it is pointless. It would be one of the best boxing matches of all time, and it’s sad it hasn’t happened. Technically, Mayweather is one of the best boxers of all time. His ability to move and slip punches is unreal. And Pacquiao has the most explosive offense in his division. It would be hard to [pick a winner], and I’d definitely want to have a floor seat close by if it ever was to happen.
There have been a handful of high-profile fighters suspended for drug issues lately, including Alistair Overeem’s failed test that set up this fight against Dos Santos. Are these isolated incidents or a reflection on MMA as a whole? Are more testing measures needed to clean things up?
I think they’re doing plenty. The fact is it is such a small percentage, it can’t reflect the whole. Otherwise that would be a chilling statistic. Does 1 percent of everybody doing something reflect on the whole? Well no, not at all. The fact is it happens every now and then. But look at how many fighters are fighting in every event, and how many fighters arecoming up positive shows you it’s an isolated incident.
Was the win and the way you ended the fight against Nogueira your best moment in the octagon?
I believe so. It’s always nice to come from behind. If you’re looking at any sporting event, a blowout is nice to celebrate at the end. But when a team comes back in the fourth quarter or last series and pulls off the win … I started off not doing so well, to say the least, so to come back from the brink of defeat and turn it around [was satisfying]. And not only that, but to submit a guy who’s going to go down with a legacy of [being] one of the best submission heavyweights ever, and I submitted him. Not only did I submit him but I did in highlight fashion that people are going to talk about for years to come.
Dos Santos is known as perhaps the best power-puncher in the sport. Do you see him as the toughest opponent you’ve ever faced?
I don’t know about toughest. That’s stylistically relative. He’s probably the fastest opponent I’ve ever seen. But I’ve faced other top guys. Cheick Kongo has excellent power. In the Pat Barry fight he was almost asleep and he landed one punch, an uppercut, and he totally put Pat Barry out. Look at Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović—he might be at the end of his career, where people might say he’s not a threat. But if he still catches you, it might not be the best day.
You’re a very family-oriented man; what’s a typical Friday night like in the Mir household?
Usually when we get done with training we head home and take a quick shower and then try to run to the movie theatres. I’m a regular at Santa Fe Station, since I live so close to it. Then we go eat sushi or Mexican food afterward, depending on if my wife gets her way or the kids.
Do you have a plan in place for how many more fights, years you want to keep fighting?
I’m healthy, I’m strong and I like to compete. I’ve never lost two fights in a row in my career. If that starts to happen where I lose two or three fights or four and five, and it gets to a point where there is not a lot of positives anymore, than, yeah, I would have to think about retiring. But over the last three years I’ve been either the co-main event or main event. If anything, I’m on a nice stride, and I don’t see me retiring anytime soon.
How important has your father and wife, Jennifer, been to yourcareer?
My father was around me when I was growing up and was always a mentor, someone that I looked up to. But my wife is with me day in and day out. She sleeps in the same room with me, she sees me in theshower. There are very few secrets, not a lot I can hide from her. Sometimes it’s that voice of honestly when you’re trying to bullshit—and she’s always there to remind me.
You’ve done some announcing with the WEC and other MMA platforms. Would you like to be a commentator when your career is over?
Totally. I really enjoy being around martialarts. Eventually there will be a time when I can’t physically compete as a fighter. I’m gonna take a lot of time for my family. But if there is a way I can feed my drive to be around it, I will. A lot of guys are coaches, but then you’re only around it when one of your guys is fighting.
If I’m commentating, I can be around events all the time. Plus I can give back to the world of martial arts, which has done a lot in my life and made me that man that I am today.
You’ve become more vocal in the last few years, some might say even say cocky? Do you agree with that assessment?
No. For whatever reason it’s not what I say, but how I say it that might irritate some people. Look at the last Primetime show. I really didn’t say anything that was that outlandish. I said if I get a hold of a limb or what not, I’m gonna submit him. I mean, geez, I’ve done that more than any other heavyweight in the UFC. I really don’t think that’s a really outlandish claim.
My opponent was making claims of me not being a man and me being a coward, and I don’t think he got as much heat for it. People don’t respect a fighter’s intelligence when they make comments and say things. They just brush it off. But whenever I say something, because of how I put it and articulate it, it seems to upset people a little bit.
What’s the one must-see Vegas attraction you send friends to when they visit?
That’s a rough one. I like some of theoff-the-wall shows. I’ve been to all the Cirque du Soleil shows. Actually, one I like is Absinthe at Caesars. I’ve gone there a couple of times actually and really enjoyed the host [Gazillionaire] and the girl who works with him [Penny Pibbets]. Their back and forth is hilarious. I think I’ve laughed the hardest I’ve ever laughed at that show.