ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Frank Mir heard Daniel Cormier call him out in front of the world. Mir listened as Cormier plotted his course to the top, a grand plan culminating with a tour at light heavyweight to take Jon Jones' belt.
Those guarantees that a 33-year-old, two-time UFC champion would be too old, too broken down to defeat a 34-year-old newcomer? Yeah, Mir heard them too. So please excuse Mir if he thinks the former Olympian is getting a bit ahead of himself.
"He's new to the game, even though he's older than I am," Mir explained to MMAFighting.com. "He doesn't really know how to market himself that well yet. I think he's still working on it. I think the smart thing is, he's doing things that will make people bring up his name in that aspect. The fact that he brought up Jon Jones makes him more relevant. It sure isn't on his accolades of what he's done inside the Octagon."
Mir has never been one to mince words, so his brusqueness in the face of public slights isn't all that surprising. But Cormier asked for this, and he got his wish.
The two heavyweights were initially slated to headline an ill-fated Strikeforce event in November of 2012, until a late injury led to the event's cancellation. Cormier ultimately fought unheralded Dion Staring two months later. An easy win sealed his UFC fate, and afterward Cormier hand-picked Mir for his Octagon debut at UFC on FOX 7.
"I think he's smart, or at least has smart people around him," Mir coolly said of Cormier's request. "[He has] nothing to lose. He goes out and fights somebody else that's lower ranked, and he comes out and loses, he loses a lot of stock. He goes out against me, changes levels, takes a shot. I guillotine him and choke him out in, let's say, 40 seconds. Does it really take anything away from his stock? No. He can still stand up and go, ‘Well guys, I got submitted by Mir, [joined] the laundry list of people that have been submitted by him. I'm going to go to light heavyweight.' And he still has all the same momentum he had when he first started. All his fans will be able to just remark on the fact that, ‘Well, you know, Mir caught him. He stepped in right off the bat. That's Mir, you know? Mir catches a lot of people.' So he can actually lose and not lose anything.
"Where as, let's say he fights Todd Duffee, who's very capable of knocking his teeth down his throat, but Todd Duffee doesn't have the same notoriety that I do. He's 2-1 in the UFC, so it's more of a dangerous fight."
Mir makes an interesting point, and although he appears unbothered by being perceived as a stepping stone, it's clear he's put some thought into it.
This isn't the first time Mir has been overlooked. For a man still grinding through his early thirties, Mir has navigated a career filled with an unnatural number of impressive ups and cruel downs. It's afforded him a sense of calm in the face of pressure. In his head, Mir understands exactly what Cormier is angling towards.
"It's name recognition. It's like Stephan Bonnar stepping in against Anderson Silva," he explained. "Who doesn't take the fight? The lowest ranked guy will take the fight instantly. The only person who has anything to lose is Anderson, because if he loses to somebody, he loses stock.
"I think he has kind of a false sense of security [after] fighting against Josh [Barnett]. You know, he feels like, ‘Well, Josh caught me and couldn't finish me.' Barnett's a great grappler, but he's not known for smashing people's limbs off. If I catch something, and it's close, I put people in the hospital. How many bones has Barnett broken? How many people has he put in the hospital?"
This isn't to say Mir is taking Cormier lightly. Far from it, actually. In need of a change after losing handily to Junior dos Santos, Mir uprooted himself to the sunbaked deserts of Albuquerque, N.M., where he's taken a liking to Greg Jackson's world renowned facilities.
Here at Jackson's, home of UFC champions, contenders and prospects alike, Mir is in a different world.
"It's high level competition here at all times," he marveled. "That's what I told my wife. If I'm feeling good, then I'm proud to have a good day. Techniques work. Because I can see that when I'm having an off moment or I make a mistake, it isn't like other gyms where I can kind of go through the motions, still succeed and be victorious. Here, if I'm not 100 percent, I go home with a lot of bumps and bruises."
Jackson and his partner in crime, Mike Winklejohn, are known as a master strategists. But for Mir, the gameplan this time around is simple: Don't get outpointed with takedowns. Most of all, make sure ground and pound is a poor choice for Cormier.
"Take him out of his element," Mir said in closing. "If he's able to control the pace with his wrestling, and smother, control, it'll be a drawn out fight. If it's a fight with lots of exchanges and lots of chaos, I think that isn't where he'll do well. Anybody at heavyweight can hope for a knockout. But I hunt them down and see them. And as far as submissions go, if he makes a mistake, then I'll take one of his limbs home."