Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Frank Mir was smack in the middle of taking the summer off to spend time with his family when the powers-that-be came to him with an unexpected offer. Just two months after unsuccessfully bidding for the UFC heavyweight championship, Mir was given an option to move over to sister company Strikeforce, just for one night, to face its recent Grand Prix winner, Daniel Cormier.
It was only months earlier when the UFC had asked B.J. Penn to move to Strikeforce and fight lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, so while what they were asking him to do was not unprecedented, his answer was.
On Tuesday's edition of The MMA Hour, Mir was asked if he had to spend any time considering the decision.
"No," he said. "I was asked, and I was like, 'Sure.'"
Even after thinking about it, the potential rewards of the fight far outweighed the costs.
For one, he's not stepping outside of the Zuffa family. It's the same people he's used to dealing with. For another, it seemed like his best chance to face a top-tier heavyweight.
The undefeated Cormier (10-0) has rocketed up the ranks of the world's heavyweights in his last two fights, first knocking out Antonio Silva in just 3:56, and then battering highly regarded veteran Josh Barnett en route to a lopsided unanimous decision win in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix finale.
By most estimates, Cormier ranks somewhere around the top five (MMA Fighting has him ranked No. 3). Like most observers, Mir has also had his eyes opened by what he's seen from the former U.S. wrestling Olympian.
"The Barnett win actually impressed me extremely," he said. "Cormier obviously has an extremely strong wrestling background. I don't think it takes a genius to figure that out. And then his striking has been coming along. I was kind of curious to see how he would do against submissions, and there was a couple times, one that I can remember right now when there was a pretty legitimate attempt on his leg, and he didn't panic and had the defense to get out of it. And so, I feel that he's a very dangerous opponent.
"I still feel that I have to pick his game apart," Mir continued. "I think that if we fight each other, I'd have the advantage in striking and submissions, but as far as whether the fight stays on the feet or goes down, I don't think I'm going to have much of a choice. Wherever he wants to fight me, I'm going to have to be prepared for all areas."
While Mir acknowledges Cormier's wrestling superiority -- "his wrestling is light years ahead of what mine is, even on my best day and his worst," he said -- he believes that putting the fight on the ground could work in his favor, allowing him to employ his own ground skills, where he is a decorated jiu-jitsu black belt.
On the feet, Mir feels that he has advantages in reach and speed, to go with his natural size advantage. While Cormier is 5-foot-11, 238 pounds with a 71-inch reach, Mir is 6-foot-3, about 255 pounds and has a 79-inch reach.
But the size differential isn't an automatic benefit for him. In his last fight against Junior dos Santos, Mir checked in at 261 pounds, but said the weight negatively affected his mobility.
"I didn't really move as well," he said. "Against one of the guys who probably moves the best in the division, that was a recipe for disaster."
Cormier, though, is a very different fighter, who is equally confident contesting the fight in any aspect.
Beyond that, Mir said he isn't expecting any differences in going to Strikeforce from the UFC, where he has spent nearly his entire career. The only thing he has wondered about are any changes in the fight gloves, saying he would prefer to use the standard issue UFC gloves if possible.
He will also continue his doctor-prescribed testosterone replacement therapy. Mir said he regularly does blood work and was told his low testosterone levels posed a health risk. Saying the decision was more about his personal health than his fight career, Mir said he is planning to continue the treatment for the foreseeable future.
"As far as performance in the gym I couldn't tell you the difference," he said. "But as far as the areas of my health where I was starting to have issues -- as far as that goes, that gets too personal -- but I probably will always stay on this."
The Mir vs. Cormier fight does not currently have a date, but Mir said he believes it will take place in late October or November.
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