10 years after first UFC title, Frank Mir still has a few good years left to fight
Jun 19, 2014 at 11:00a ET
It's hard to believe that 10 years ago to the day, Frank Mir took home his first ever UFC heavyweight title although at the time it came under very controversial circumstances.
Mir was facing heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia at UFC 48 on June 19, 2004 and while the upstart submission specialist held a 7-1 record going into the fight, no one was giving him much of a chance against the 6'8" behemoth knockout machine, who was undefeated at the time.
"I think because of his takedown defense and prior to that he had knocked out pretty much everyone he fought except for one guy, it was like 16 or 17 fights, and I wasn't looked at as much of a threat because my best attribute are submissions and that's great, but how are you going to get him down when no one else had?" Mir said when speaking to FOX Sports while looking back at the historic fight.
This was also a much different age of fighting than the UFC stars of today who spend all day, everyday working out and training to prepare for the battle ahead. No, back then Mir was working a full time job as a bouncer at a Las Vegas nightclub with long hours and little time off even when he was getting ready for a UFC heavyweight title fight.
As a matter of fact, Mir only took off the last couple of weeks leading up to the bout with Sylvia while fitting in as much training as he could while working a 40-plus hour a week job.
Heading into the fight, Mir knew beating Sylvia would be no easy task. Less than a year before they fought, Sylvia had crushed former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez by knockout and he employed a similar grappling heavy, submission style offense. Not only did he not manage to take Sylvia down, but he got punched directly in the mouth whenever he even attempted to mount an attack and his reign as champion ended in less that four minutes into the first round.
But just seconds after the fight started, Sylvia decided to take Mir to the ground and instead of standing back up again, he stayed on the mat with the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace submission specialist. Looking back on the fight, even Mir was surprised at Sylvia's tactics but then again maybe he was trying to prove something by going to the ground with a grappling expert.
Needless to say it was a bad move.
"When we did go to the ground I was like wow that didn't take long. When he actually started moving me towards the cage, there was a part of me that just smirked like 'really dude?'. I thought for sure if we went to the ground, I would have to play a very closed guard, tight game to keep him from standing up," Mir described. "When he started pushing me towards the cage and showing that he was really going to ground and pound me and had no intentions to try and escape to his feet, it was kind of like a moment of 'I gotcha, I can't believe you're going to hand this to me'."
It didn't take long for Mir to swivel his hips and catch Sylvia in an armbar. The champion tried to pull his arm free, but as Mir pushed his hips forward, Sylvia's forearm went snap, crackle and pop as referee Herb Dean astutely noticed and rushed in to stop the fight.
"When I first grabbed the arm he twisted his thumb out and I thought he was going to try to roll but he kind of went the wrong way. It gave a weird angle so I was just trying to re-angle his arm, and then he kind of jerked and actually got his elbow out and I didn't think I had enough leverage to break it," Mir said. "So I kind of just held on and I was actually waiting for him to crash forward because I assumed he was going to try to smother me and I was going to try to put a triangle on.
"I was really just holding on waiting for the next technique and rhythm to kind of play out, but when the arm started to crack and pop, it was like something I didn't have the intention of starting but then I have something, I'm going to stick with it and keep on going."
When Dean stopped the fight, it appeared as if all 10,000 people in attendance at the Mandalay Bay Events Center were unhappy with the call. Sylvia never tapped and he was arguing with doctors and the referee after the fight that he wanted to continue. Then the replay showed in slow motion and as Sylvia's arm popped in two places as his arm turned into a U shape, there was no doubt the limb mangling submission was enough to prove the fight should have been stopped.
The confusion continued, however, even to the point when Bruce Buffer announced Mir as the winner he didn't even declare him as the new UFC heavyweight champion despite beating Sylvia at just :50 seconds into the first round.
It was only later that night at the post fight press conference where UFC president Dana White confirmed Sylvia's broken arm and subsequent surgery to repair the damage did everyone start to applaud Mir as champion.
"It was upsetting at the time," Mir said. "Really at that point I was being told I won on a fluke, that the referee had stopped the fight too soon and there was nothing they could do to change it but the fight wasn't a deserving win. Nobody wants to get a win that way where it's just a technicality or a fluke, a referee made a mistake. It wasn't until Dana White acknowledged at the press conference that yes indeed his arm was broken and he was getting ready to undergo surgery."
10 years later, Mir still looks back at that fight with fondness because it was his first UFC heavyweight championship and ironically enough because of the odd circumstance of how the fight ended, remains one of the most talked about submissions in MMA history. The moment also takes center stage for a new UFC 'Fightography' about Mir looking at his entire career with the promotion currently airing on the promotion's digital channel, Fight Pass.
The fight with Sylvia unfortunately does serve as a landmark moment with dubious honors as well for Mir's career because it was supposed to be the start of his reign as UFC heavyweight champion, but he was never able to defend the title following a tragic motorcycle accident that severely injured his leg and kept him out of the sport for nearly two years. Even upon his return, Mir struggled to maintain consistency until he finally got back on track in 2007, winning three fights in a row including his second turn as UFC heavyweight champion.
"I'm proud of what I've done since then. I don't look back on it as much as I try to keep looking forward," Mir said about the accident. "What's the next thing, the next deal, the next hill to conquer."
It's impossible to ignore the fact that Mir has once again fallen on harder times while dropping his last four fights in a row bringing about questions of his possible retirement or even release from the UFC after a career with the promotion spanning almost 13 years.
Mir has never been a fighter to sugarcoat the assessment of his performances, and there's no getting around the fact that he's looked off especially in his last two losses to Josh Barnett and Alistair Overeem. The former UFC heavyweight champ decided to take a self-imposed sabbatical following his last fight in February to clear the cobwebs and let the dust settle after the longest losing streak in his career.
Now just under five months removed from that fight, Mir still isn't ready to commit to a timeframe for a return to action, but he can guarantee one thing -- he's not done yet.
"I just took some time off. I kind of felt that maybe I was a little burned out and wasn't putting everything into the training and the fights. I think the last couple of fights, I was looking more forward to the fight being finished than the fight itself. I just saw the signs of being burnt out and decided to take some time off," Mir revealed.
"I just turned 35 a couple of weeks ago. As a heavyweight, that's really not that old. I think I'm still younger than some of them. I think 35 would be a pretty young age to retire. It would just be a long time of me commentating or broadcasting, which I plan on doing, but I'd hope to be able to fight for a few more years because once it's over with it's kind of over with."
Nothing will happen until Mir is really ready to return, however, but when that time comes he'll give the UFC a call to book a fight and then it's game on against any heavyweight in the division.
"Once I take some time off and heal up and feel good about fighting, I'll fight anybody," Mir said. "Just jump back in there."